Please zoom in or out and select the base layer according to your preference to make the map ready for printing, then press the Print button above.

Ashaninka of Rio Amônia and Saweto against illegal loggers at border Peru-Brazil


The Brazil-Peru border has increasingly become confronted with a series of socio-ecological conflicts that augmented pressure on indigenous communities: the advancing of road construction, oil and gas extraction and other mega-projects in the Alto Juruá region, but also, and perhaps most pressing, ongoing deforestation and invasion of loggers into indigenous lands. Indigenous groups in the region, for example Ashaninka communities of the Kampa Rio Amônia Indigenous Territory in the very southwest of Acre, Brazil, and in the village of Saweto across the border are particularly affected and have started to mobilize against threats to their livelihoods.

The territories of Ashaninka, one of the largest South American indigenous groups, are located in the borderland of the Alto Juruá area, divided between Brazil and Peru, and form one of the most isolated regions of South America, with an area still largely covered by Amazon rain forest. In Acre, their isolation has historical roots as their territories faced invasions from the expanding rubber economy in the late 19th and early 20th century and, as a consequence, the communities moved to more remote, interior parts of the forest. The Ashaninka population is larger on the Peruvian side although it has not achieved land demarcation. Peruvian Ashaninka look back on a history of violent repression and persecution through the guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso in the 1980s, leading to the extinction or displacement of many communities. Also after, the situation in Peru continued to threaten indigenous communities as, in absence of the State, invasions of gold miners and illegal loggers into their territories have augmented. Also a series of hydroelectric dams were constructed in the Peruvian border region and new concessions to logging, mining and oil companies were handed out by the Peruvian government. This has increased environmental damage, violence against indigenous communities and socioeconomic pressure and makes Ashaninka communities and isolated indigenous groups increasingly migrate to Brazilian territories. Some of them regard themselves as descendants of populations that were persecuted and massacred during the years of the rubber boom and would now return to their historical land. [1][2][3][4][5][6]

In the border region of Alto Juruá, a densely forested area rich in mahogany and cedar, illegal logging is one of the major problems, another one being drug trafficking. While historically indigenous communities in the region have faced invasions from rubber tappers into their lands, the community of the Rio Amônia, located in the municipality of Marechal Thaumaturgo, became increasingly confronted with extensive deforestation and the extraction of noble woods through logging invasions during the 1980s. The responsible companies belong to the influential Cameli family which has several enterprises and political influence (as Orleir Cameli was governor of Acre in the 1990s and Gladson Cameli is currently a senator for the right-wing party). The Ashaninka reported that Cameli’s loggers logged the forest with machinery and tractors but without any plan or criteria, amplifying the destruction in short time. When the indigenous people denounced the actions, they were not believed as the company claimed to be the land owner, and the logging just stopped when FUNAI and other public authorities identified the area as public land. In total, more than a quarter of the Kampa do Rio Amônia indigenous territory was affected, leading not only to deforestation but also to an impoverishment of the region’s biodiversity, pollution of rivers, the arrival of squatters and an increase in hunting for rare animal furs. While the timber business has flourished, the Ashaninka communities faced existential pressures and suffered from forced labor for loggers, diseases, the introduction of alcoholism, and cultural loss – an era which they consider today as the worst in the community’s history. As a consequence, the community started to organize and fight for land demarcation (which they received in 1992), reported the situation to numerous Brazilian authorities and finally initiated a lawsuit against the Cameli family for three documented logging invasions in the years 1981, 1985 and 1987. The process went through the instances, with all courts deciding in favor of the Ashaninka and holding out compensations for the experienced damage and suffering, but despite clear evidence the process was several times prolongated through legal maneovers of the defendants so that the case landed at the Federal Supreme Court in 2011. Although the Cameli family was already defeated in all instances and condemned to a fine of 35 million R $, the process took a dramatic turn in 2018 when the Supreme Court reversed a verdict it issued a few months before and invalidated all previous decisions to the disadvantage of the Ashaninka community without explaining the reasons for that. The Ashaninka expressed their indignation and stated that, after fighting for justice in the case for already more than three decades, this move emblematizes an arbitrary and unjust juridical system. They nevertheless filed out a new appeal to the Supreme Court. In August 2018, an Ashaninka representative made a statement at the United Nations in Geneva, announcing that the community will continue the fight for indigenous and nature’s rights and make an appeal to the UN to resolve the legal proceedings and make the Brazilian government respect its international obligations (e.g. with respect to the ILO Convention 169 and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).[4] [7][8][9][10]

Also over the last years such logging invasions remained commonplace in the region, particularly on the Peruvian side. Towards the end of the 2000s the Brazilian border land experienced an increase in logging invasions from Peru. For example in 2007, the Ashaninka of the Rio Amônia reported death threats from a task leader of the Peruvian logging company Venao Forestal, which is owned by Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the now imprisoned former Peruvian president and has even become FSC certified by the SmartWood  program of the Rainforest Alliance in 2007. Venao is reported to have crossed into Brazil to illegally log valuable trees, using an informally built road network from the Juruá basin to the Peruvian Ucayali region and strategically manipulating the Ashaninka to create internal conflict.. As a consequence, the Ashaninka sent out a notice of concern and called authorities for immediate action to stop Venao. Moreover, over the last years, indigenous groups from the Kampa do Rio Amônia territory and the nearby Kaxinawá territory reported frequent encounters with migrating isolated indigenous groups and raise concerns over the advancing of the often armed loggers on the Peruvian side, leading to migration and resulting increased territorial pressure on communities and conflict between different ethnicities. They note that some communities have been offered money to allow access the forest which, as recent examples show, would cause dependencies and socio-cultural damage and the increase of problems such as alcoholism and prostitution. Following an inspection in 2011, the Ashaninka of Rio Amônia estimate that, despite increasing interventions by the public authorities, 15 percent of their territory has been newly affected by invasions from Peruvian loggers over the last four years; moreover several illegal bases for coca refining have been detected within the limits of their territory which is located along the continent’s main drug trafficking routes. A dweller of the neighboring Serra do Divisor National Park stated that besides logging there is ongoing drug trafficking in the borderland of the park without any public intervention – the Federal Police had been informed but never arrived. Moreover, deforestation has been advancing in the Peruvian part of the National Park has already arrived at the border. As noble wood has become rare on the Peruvian side, loggers have established informal camps on the Brazilian side, became arrested or expelled, but later returned while Brazilian authorities view their scope for intervention slowed down due to bureaucratic issues and difficult access. The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) in 2011 and 2012 publicly alerted against increasing existential pressures on indigenous populations in the border region as drug traffickers and loggers would use violence against isolated indigenous people or cause conflict and socio-cultural damage among them. It reported about becoming encircled by heavily armed men on a field visit in the Envira region further East and warned of a genocide against isolated people in the border region. [3][4][5][6][11][12][13][14]

A new violent and tragic incident occurred in September 2014 and involved four Ashaninka leaders of the Peruvian village of Saweto, located just across the (de facto imaginary) border, who were shot dead on their way to meet the Ashaninka of the Rio Amônia. Three of the corpses were found weeks later in a swamp, one remained disappeared; a police group was shortly after sent to the area but left soon after without intervention as media attention turned away from the case. The Peruvian indigenous organization FENAMAD was among the supporters and denounced the juridical authorities and local institutions of Ucayali for being indifferent about the crime and for having omitted all the warnings and submitted criminal charges before the murder. Another indigenous organization said that the government is not interested in solving the case or in canceling the forest concessions but rather wants to make the media believe that they would. A local environmental prosecutor stated that corruption is widespread in the Amazon region as the State has only limited control, and as noble wood is a lucrative business, corruption also involves also forest concessions to wash illegally extracted wood from other areas. A recent investigation in Peru found that the use of false timber documentation is widespread (in 42% of the cases in Ucayali, and even more in other regions). Three years after the incident, the widows of the victims still bewailed impunity in the case as by then only two men had yet been arrested but not jailed. They stated that they were still living in fear and that the lack of the State control, security and weak public institutions in their area is the key difference to the situation of the communities in Kampa do Rio Amônia; while the Brazilian area is more and more safeguarded by the army, the situation in Peru has become worse. [15][16] [17][18][19][20]

What is important to note here is that the murder seem to have been targeted and motivated by the persistent mobilization of local indigenous communities against illegal logging. Just some months before the murder, the Ashaninka community had indicated 67 timber trafficking spots to the public authorities and called them to intervene and some of the leaders repeatedly received death threats from loggers. The Saweto community had denounced loggers since 2011, but when public inspectors arrived in the forest, access was prohibited by the concession holders, so they left again. When inspectors finally arrived in 2014, the four men  - Edwin Chota Valera, Leoncio Quintisima Melendez, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Francisco Pinedo Ramírez – accompanied them to help them geolocate some of the spots; they detected several illegal logging activities but before the mission was finished, the inspectors decided to depart because they were not authorized to inspect all parts and had already been confronted with harassments and death threats from strangers. The indigenous leaders continued the mission, heading towards the village of Apiwxta of the Brazilian Ashaninka community, but never arrived there as a few days later their murder was discovered. In particular Edwin Chota had been known as an activist against logging in the region. He previously officially legally denounced the owner of Eco Forestal Ucayali SAC, a company that holds and administers one of the forest concessions in the Saweto area, for allowing and facilitating the entry of illegal loggers (whose names he also knew) to the forest. He sent a letter (see link below) with geodata, maps and photos as evidence to the State prosecution and, despite knowing his life was in danger, spoke in the media about the case (see e.g. video link below), which ultimately also gained the attention of the world press. However, although he also asked for personal protection as well as for State protection to the community, the prosecutor just reacted after the murder and opened an investigation case against the owner and one logger. [18] [19][20]

Besides this direct resistance, the Ashaninka however also engage in community projects and with local civil society. For example, the Ashaninka of the Rio Amônia started to initiate activities to recover the forest stock – by planting more than two million trees – and to engage as a civil society voice for indigenous autonomy. They have formed the Apiwtxa Association which in the last 15 years has become a focal point for indigenous resistance in the whole Alto Juruá region, building alliances with other groups and organizations and launching community projects, a traditional school and a cooperative. Thus the mobilization against logging has also led to social transformations within the community and new infrastructures and institutions. Apiwtxa, which is the local indigenous name for ‘union’, has become the main village of the traditionally dispersed Ashaninka group in the Kampa do Rio Amônia indigenous territory and home to about 800 inhabitants; many families that used to live along the river banks have moved to the village for security reasons. A leader of the Apiwtxa association reports that over the last years various communication sites with Internet connection were established in the isolated region with support of an NGO, allowing the community to denounce problems in the region – which lacks phone signal and basic State services – and to participate in a transnational working group (Grupo de Trabalho Transfronteiriço). This working group was founded on the initiative of the Pro-Indian Commission of Acre and holds regular meetings since 2005, forming a wider network and movement of local indigenous groups and NGOs and civil society organizations operating in the border region of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia – such as for example SOS Amazônia, ProNaturaleza, Instituto de Bien Común, Centro de Trabalho Indigenista, and the Organização dos Povos Indígenas do Rio Juruá (OPIRJ) – to discuss and coordinate actions to defend indigenous lands and protect isolated and indigenous communities, including the calling for State intervention; it was also this network in which the four assassinated Ashaninka leaders of the Peruvian village had engaged together with the community of Rio Amônia. Today, the Apiwtxa Association regularly updates online about its activities, the developments in the region and the meeting of the working group and promotes email petitions (e.g. against Rainforest Alliance SmartWood and Forestal Venao); it thereby treats non-Indian technology as a means to strengthen traditional culture and knowledge. Through the years, the community has initiated several projects and received funding from various sources, following a strategy that combines nature conservation with community empowerment. For example, in 2015, they signed a 6.6 million R$ contract with the Amazon Fund of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) for an Alto Juruá project over three years. The project funders argue that the community would maintain in control over the design and management of the project and that it would enable them to promote agroforestry and to support monitoring and controlling of the territory against illegal and predatory deforestation which would also benefit the surrounding areas and populations. The Apiwtxa Association was awarded with several prices for its actions in defense of the environment, including the Equatorial Award received by the United Nations Development Program in 2017. Already in 2014, the Saweto community received the Alexander Soros Foundation’s Environmental Activism award. They were also granted property titles over an area of 80.000 hectares of their territory, which in the decade before the murder had always been denied by public authorities as they argued that forest concessions were already distributed. This was due to intervention of the Peruvian central government, which after the assassination – assumingly under pressure prior to hosting COP 20 in 2014 – visited Saweto, found that concessions has been created irregularly (which was already demonstrated by Edwin Chota), and then also took over the legal case of the assassination after the unwillingness of Ucayali authorities to deal with it. [3][4] [5][7][11] [18][21][22][23][24][25][26]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ashaninka of Rio Amônia and Saweto against illegal loggers at border Peru-Brazil
State or province:Acre (BR) - Ucayali (PE)
(municipality or city/town)Marechal Thaumaturgo (BR) - Masisea (PE)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Timber

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

As outlined above, the Peru-Brasil border has been target of illegal logging, thus not many project details are available. Some of the involved actors: Cameli family of Acre and Venao Forestal from Peru who both entered the TI Kampa do Rio Amônia, and Eco Forestal Tamaya Ucayali SAC from Peru which manages one of the concessions in Saweto and was involved in facilitating access for illegal loggers. The Rainforest Alliance who FSC-certified Venao wood with its Smartwood program. Frauds in forest inventories, timber licensing and the distribution, management and monitoring forest concessions are part of the problem and are common practice in Peru.

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,500 - 3,000
Start of the conflict:01/07/1981
Company names or state enterprises:Venao Forestal from Peru - condemned for illegal logging invasions in Ashaninka territory
Madeireira Cameli from Brazil - accused of illegal logging
Rainforest Alliance from United States of America - its SmartWood program certified illegally logged wood with FSC
Eco Forestal Tamaya Ucayali SAC from Peru - manages one of the concessions in Saweto, accused of facilitating illegal logging and corruption
Relevant government actors:Federal Supreme Court Acre

FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) and IBAMA (environmental agency) in Brazil

Local administration and police / military; Peruvian government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Apiwtxa - Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia


Grupo de Trabalho Transfronteiriço para a Proteção da Serra do Divisor e Alto Juruá (Brasil – Peru)

SOS Amazônia


Instituto de Bien Común

Centro de Trabalho Indigenista

Comitê para Democratização da Informática

Organização dos Povos Indígenas do Rio Juruá (OPIRJ)

Comissão Pró Índio do Acre (CPI-AC)

Organização dos Povos Indígenas do Acre, Sul do Amazonas e Noroeste de Rondônia

Upper Amazon Conservancy


Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Active patrolling and monitoring of the area against loggers, including photo documentation
Speech at UN and other public statements

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: displacement, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Violent targeting of activists
Land demarcation
Development of alternatives:Stronger regulations against illegal logging as well as trade with and certification / false documentation of illegal wood; stop corruption in forest concessions; consider stop of trade with noble wood at all; protect indigenous communities in the area; apply regulations against logging and associated crimes and violence
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Not yet. The fight still goes on and illegal logging has not been stopped - and might be even increasing throughout the region, leading to insecurity, deforestation and the so-far unpunished assassination of four indigenous activists. Institutions remain weak and companies have not been punished for past socio-environmental crimes, fake certification, etc.. Nevertheless, the environment activism of the two communities has received international and regional recognition, and it seems that this has contributed to more support for the communities, indigenous rights and environmental justice.

Sources and Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

19. Actualidad Ambiental (2014): Continúa búsqueda de asháninkas asesinados por madereros ilegales en Ucayali. 12.09.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

6. Schertow, J. (2007): Ashaninka threatened, prepared to take action., 29.08.2007. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

16. Servindi (2014): ¿Qué sucedió en Alto Tamaya-Saweto? (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

25. Upper Amazon (2014): Peru Promises to Title Saweto in Response to the Murders. September 2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

1. Fellet, J. (2012): Na fronteira Brasil-Peru, índios se mobilizam contra obras binacionais. BBC Brasil, 23.04.2012. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

2. Caretti, G.; de Haro, I. (213): Asháninka, treinta años de resistencia indígena en Perú por conservar la tierra. RTVE, 01.11.2013 (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

3. Thenório, I. (2008): Pressionados por madeireiras, índios peruanos fogem para o Brasil. G1 Globo Amazônia. 10.10.2008. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018),,MUL793480-16052,00-PRESSIONADOS+POR+MADEIREIRAS+INDIOS+PERUANOS+FOGEM+PARA+O+BRASIL.html

20. Actualidad Ambiental (2014): Asháninka asesinado había denunciado amenazas de taladores ilegales pero autoridades no le hicieron caso. 09.09.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

23. BNDES (2015): BNDES approves R$ 6.6 million project from the Amazon Fund to the Ashaninka Indigenous People in Acre. Brazilian Development Bank, 26.02.2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

18. Luna, N. (2014): Cuatro viudas contra el tráfico de madera. OjoPúblico, 10.12.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

10. Chaves, L. (2018): Foi o pior exemplo da nossa história”, diz Ashaninka sobre desmatamento ilegal praticado por empresa dos Cameli. Página 20 Online, 27.05.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

8. Piyako, B. (2018): The appeal of the Ashaninka People of the Amazon. Statement by Benki Piyako at the UN in Geneva, published at Shan Newspaper Online Magazine. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

24. ProPurús (2013): ProPurús y la comunidad nativa Alto Tamaya – Saweto participan en encuentro binacional. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

17. García, F. (2017): Familiares de líderes nativos asesinados en Saweto exigen agilizar investigación. El Comercio, 21.09.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

21. APIWTXA (2008): Aldeia Apiwtxa, Terra Indígena Kampa do Rio Amônea, 12 de agosto de 2008. Public letter. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

4. Instituto Socioambiental (2014): Ashaninka. Instituto Socioambiental, Online Portal. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

7. APIWTXA (2018): Carta aberta da APIWTXA sobre decisão judicial que afeta a Terra Indígena Kampa do Rio Amônia. Blog of the Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

9. CPI Acre (2018): Apoio aos Ashaninka da Terra Indígena Kampa do Rio Amônia. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

14. Schertow, J. (2011): Brazil: Funai suspects hunting of indigenous peoples by drug traffickers from Peru., 09.08.2011. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

11. APIWTXA (2009): O desmatamento no Peru já chegou à Fronteira brasileira. Blog of the Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia, 04.12.2009. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

13. FSC-Watch (2007): Certification of Forestal Venao, Peru: another FSC credibility disaster, courtesy of SmartWood and WWF. FSC-Watch, 20.07.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

12. Thenório, I. (2009): Peruanos invadem parque brasileiro na Amazônia para roubar madeira nobre. Globo G1, 13.03.2009. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018),,MUL1040271-16052,00-PERUANOS+INVADEM+PARQUE+BRASILEIRO+NA+AMAZONIA+PARA+ROUBAR+MADEIRA+NOBRE.html

15. Carvalho, E. (2014): Índios ashaninka do Peru pedem ajuda a 'irmãos do Brasil' após mortes. Globo G1, 04.12.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

26. Upper Amazon (2017): Saweto Receives Soros Foundation Award for Environmental Activism. November 2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

5. Fellet, J. (2012): Funai alerta para risco de genocídio de índios isolados no Acre. BBC Brazil, 19.04.2012. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

22. APIWTXA (2008): Reunião Transfronteiriça para a Proteção da Serra do Divisor e Alto Juruá (Brasil-Peru). Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia, 14.10.2008. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

TV Report about Venao Forestal invasions

"Entrevista com Edwin Chota" (Interview April, 2013 - Spanish)

“If not us then who? Our fight” (Awarded short documentary - Saweto environmental activism)

Other documents

Denuncia por Tala Ilegal Saweto Ucayali (PDF, 2014)

Meta information

Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update09/11/2018



Illegal loggers operate in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon (Source: Giancarlo Shibayama - Supay Fotos)

Indigenous activist Edwin Chota in a TV reportage about illegal logging (Source: Reportage of The New York Times)

Edwin Chota and three other activists were assassinated by loggers in 2014 (Source: Article in the Guardian)

The impact of illegal logging in the nearby Serra do Divisor National Park (Source: Diego Perez)

A Brazilian military operation against loggers (Source: Divulgação Polícia Civil)

Loggers transporting noble wood that is worth thousands of dollars on the international market (Source: Martin Mejia/AP Photo)

Benki Piyako, representative of the Ashaninka of the Kampa do Rio Amônia, at a UN conference in Geneva (Source: