Peru has witnessed the assassination of several Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders who opposed the entry into their territories of settlers seeking to grow coca.
The Kakataibo Indigenous guard captured Redy Rabel Ibarra, the confessed murderer of the leader of the Unipacuyacu community, Arbildo Melendez, who was assassinated in April 2020 due to his fight against drug trafficking and illegal logging.
On January 10, members of the Santa Marta community caught fugitive Ibarra, who had been arrested shortly after Melendez's murder but was later released by the Puerto Inca Preparatory Investigation Court.
The Native Federation of Kakataibo Communities (Fenacoka) explained that his arrest took place after Ibarra attacked a 65-year-old citizen, causing "large cuts on his face."
Melendez's murder marked the beginning of a series of crimes against Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders who oppose the entry into the Amazon territories of settlers seeking to cultivate coca or cut down high-value species.
Pam Brown— Smilingl8dy (@Smilingl8dy) January 13, 2022
"Amid the onslaught of negative news, we welcome signs of progress. This Tuesday, we received word that the confessed killer of Indigenous leader Arbildo Meléndez has finally been captured.
Arbildo’s widow, Zulema Guevara, has courageously fought for justice in pic.twitter.com/adihaOW1cv
Since April 2020, at least four Kakataibo leaders and four Ashaninka people have been killed at hands of drug traffickers in the jungle zone shared by the regions of Huanuco, Pasco, and Ucayali, an area where coca crops have proliferated in recent years.
In 2021, five United Nations special rapporteurs demanded that the Peruvian State investigate the murders of Indigenous leaders and punish the guilty. The authorities then launched a special protocol to improve the protection of human rights defenders and environmental activists.
Before his murder, Melendez was working to obtain the titling of the Unipacuyacu community whose territories have been recognized since 1995. Due to this work, he received harassment and threats from invaders and land traffickers whom he denounced incessantly. The regional authorities, however, did not attempt to evict the settlers.