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Defending the Amazon’s uncontacted peoples: Q&A with Julio Cusurichi

13 / 03 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

LIMA, Peru — In February, Peruvian authorities evicted thousands of illegal gold miners from Amazon lands they were deforesting and poisoning with mercury. The government announced plans to set up military bases in an area called La Pampa that is a focal point for the illegal activity in Madre de Dios, the Amazon region known as the country’s biodiversity capital. Julio Cusurichi, the prize-winning leader of the Indigenous Federation of the Madre de Dios River and Tributaries (FENAMAD), broadly welcomed the move. However, he expressed concern that the miners’ eviction from La Pampa could push them to further invade the indigenous lands he has been defending for more than two decades. Cusurichi, a member of one of Peru’s largest indigenous nations, the Shipibo-Conibo, was working to protect the peoples and forests of his native Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru long before he was elected FENAMAD’s president. In 2007 he won a Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for environmental activism, for leading a successful campaign to create a legally recognized indigenous territory in Madre de Dios. At 8,300 square kilometers (3,200 square miles), the Madre De Dios Indigenous Reserve is home to indigenous Mashco Piro and other unidentified groups living in voluntary isolation. Now aged 48, Cusurichi continues to fight for indigenous rights in Madre de Dios. The region has become Peru’s epicenter of illegal gold mining, a practice that is wreaking ecological havoc in six Amazon countries. Since 1985, uncontrolled gold mining has destroyed nearly 960 square kilometers (370…

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