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Uncontacted Peoples Forced to Flee Peru as More Trouble Awaits

Fleeing illegal loggers in the Peruvian Amazon, a group of previously uncontacted indigenous people appeared in Brazil in late June.
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Fleeing illegal loggers in the Peruvian Amazon, a group of previously uncontacted indigenous people appeared in Brazil in late June just days after indigenous rights organizations warned of such problems due to Peru's lack of enforcement.

On June 29, the uncontacted people came into the indigenous Ashaninka community in Brazil near the Peru-Brazil border, scaring some Ashaninka women and children who found them grabbing pots and knives out of their longhouse according to FUNAI, Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Agency.

Survival International (SI) as well as FUNAI and other indigenous advocates had just asserted that illegal logging and drug trafficking was pushing uncontacted peoples, mostly in Peru, towards more populated areas where they would be subject to conflict and potentially fatal disease.

“Both Peru and Brazil gave assurances to stop the illegal logging and drug trafficking which are pushing uncontacted Indians into new areas. They’ve failed," noted SI Director Stephen Corry on July 2.

"The traffickers even took over a government installation meant to monitor their behavior. The uncontacted Indians now face the same genocidal risk from disease and violence which has characterized the invasion and occupation of the Americas over the last five centuries. No one has the right to destroy these Indians,” Corry said.

In an earlier press statement SI quoted José Carlos Meirelles, who monitored this region for FUNAI for over 20 years.

“Something serious must have happened," Meirelles said. "It is not normal for such a large group of uncontacted Indians to approach in this way. This is a completely new and worrying situation and we currently do not know what has caused it.”

In the week after their arrival, Brazilian authorities sent interpreters and health experts to check on the conditions of the newly encountered uncontacted people who had originally arrived in a village known as Simpatia or sympathy in English. The combined effort of FUNAI and officials from the state of Acre has been named 'Operation Sympathy.'

Brazilian anthropologists are "very concerned" about the people's vulnerability to disease according to FUNAI. Uncontacted peoples have died in large numbers due to diseases in the last 30 years.

SI advocates are urging the governments of Brazil and Peru to step up enforcement of sanctions against illegal activities in the Amazonian areas and to take steps to protect the uncontacted peoples.