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Human Rights

Amazon rainforest defender assassinated in Peru after receiving death threats

The activist’s son said his father was ambushed at sea while returning home by boat after he met with a group of environmentalists

A wild toucan perches a tree branch in the Amazon rainforest
A wild toucan perches a tree branch in the Amazon rainforest | Shutterstock

December 3, 2023 9:42am

Updated: December 3, 2023 3:14pm

An ardent defender of the Amazon rainforest was assassinated in Peru on Wednesday after receiving a series of death threats, say local authorities in the region.

Quinto Inuma Alvarado, a Kichwa tribal leader well-known and prominent activist leader of the Kichwa community, was shot dead in San Martin, an area located the northern region of the South American country.

The Peruvian government, currently under the control of conservative transition President Dina Boluarte, called the killing “cowardly” and her government expressed “deep regret” in a statement released to the public on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

It added that as part of its effort, the National Police are sending a helicopter to the area with a police contingent “specialized in investigating homicides” to “find those responsible in the shortest time possible to bring them to justice.”

While the assassination comes as a blow to the environmentalist community, it was not a complete surprise since reports indicate there have been confrontations between illegal loggers and members of the San Martin indigenous community.

Peruvian environmentalists have long complained that their government is not taking the necessary precautions to protect them, and at least two and a half dozen activists have been killed since 2020, according to the country’s national human rights center.

Environmentalist organizations in the U.S. also expressed outrage over Inuma’s assassination.

“Deeply saddened by the senseless killing of Quinto Inuma Alvarado, adding to a grim tally of over 30 Indigenous defenders killed in the Peruvian Amazon,” wrote the Rainforest Foundation US on X.

For his part, Inuma endured a high number of threats and attempts to intimidate him into abandoning his efforts to defend the Amazon from illegal deforestation.

The activist’s son said his father was ambushed at sea while returning home by boat after he met with a group of environmentalists. According to reports, Inuma was attacked by hooded men who trapped him on the river by blocking the waterway with a tree trunk.

After Inuma was trapped, gunfire erupted, and the activist leader was shot three times in the back and once in the head.

The boat was carrying six people, including other members of Inuma’s family, including his mother, sister, brother, and an aunt who was also wounded.

Kevin Arnol Inuma Mandruma, Quinto’s son, who was not on the boat at the time, told the Associated Press that the loggers “told him they were going to kill him because he had made a report. They’ve tried to kill him several times, with beatings and now gunfire.”

“We deeply regret the death of Quinto Inuma Alvardo ... as a consequence of a cowardly attack of which he was victim in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 29,” said a joint statement released by Peru's culture, environment, interior, and justice ministries. 

A law enforcement campaign being pushed by the Mission in Peru of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is now underway. 

The office called upon authorities to use all necessary resources to hunt down the unidentified killers to face criminal prosecution.

“We condemn the murder of the defender and apu [guardian of the mountains] Quinto Inuma,” their tweet reads.

“We express condolences to the family and the native community of Santa Rosillo de Yanayacu #SanMartín. We call on the authorities to guarantee a prompt investigation of the events.”

Citing the “rule of law and social peace inherent to all Peruvians,” the government vowed to find the killers.

“We express our condolences to the family and members of his community in the face of this reprehensible crime, and… reaffirm the government’s commitment to seeking justice for Quinto Inuma and guaranteeing safety of the residents of the community,”

The statement adds that the government “will continue to fight against illegal activities that depredate forests, ecosystems and that put the life and integrity of Peruvians at risk.”

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.