Source Front Line Defenders
On 19 April 2018, Olivia Arévalo Lomas, a woman human rights defender and spiritual leader of the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous peoples, was killed just a few feet from her home in the community of ‘Victoria Gracia’, in Coronel Portillo Province, Ucayalí, Peru. The defender was shot in the chest and died instantly. Her body was left on the street in full view of her local community.
Olivia Arévalo Lomas was an indigenous spiritual leader and active defender of the cultural and environmental rights of the Shipibo-Konibo. Shipibo-Konibo are part of the Federación de Comunidades Nativas del Ucayalí y Afluentes (Federation for the Native Communities of the Ucayalí and Affluents – FECONAU), which represents more than thirty indigenous communities in the Ucayali region and advocates for the recognition of indigenous communities’ rights and the preservation of their ancestral territories. Olivia Arévalo, as a wise indigenous woman, was also responsible for the traditional knowledge of this ethnic group. She was known for cultivating traditional medicine and the sacred songs of her people (Íkaros), which are a transversal element of their culture and expression of their harmonious relationship with nature.
The ancestral territory of the Shipibo people in the Peruvian Amazon faces complete deforestation due to the expansion of palm oil plantations. Shipibo-Konibo leaders have publicly denounced the corruption of the Regional Government of Ucayalí and the municipal authorities in the District of Nueva Requena, which have been supportive of the expansion of palm oil plantations in the region. Instead of titling the community’s ancestral lands, Ucayalí’s Regional Department for Agriculture has continued to publicly undermine the indigenous communities’ bid for legal recognition of their lands and issue certificates of possession to individuals who have settled in the area, under the pretext of rice cultivation, to engage in land grabbing.
The killing of Olivia Arévalo Lomas comes after a spike in violence, threats and intimidation against members of FECONAU communities in Ucayalí, such as Santa Clara de Uchunya. In the past six months, several members of FECONAU have been subjects of attacks. A representative of FECONAU, Edinson Mahua, was shot at close range and narrowly escaped serious injury, while community leaders in Ucayalí have received anonymous death threats.