Shipibo activist wins international prize

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Few know what goes on in the rainforests of “darkest Peru”. Millions of Peruvians have no clear idea what is to be found in Madre de Dios, the people there and their way of life.

Little is known about the social problems facing people there: destruction of crops, loss of lands and property rights, invasions of people from outside taking away the natural resources and leaving nothing. There is an open struggle there against those known among criminals as “predators”.

From time to time the 29 native communities of Madre de Dios speak up about the consequences of this phenomenon and in defense of their historical rights, but their voice does not stand for much with the government.

Julio Cusurichi, a Shipibo Indian from the native community of El Pilar, is one of the 20,000 indigenous people who want to be heard.

In view of his defense of the forests and isolated communities of the remote rainforests of Eastern Peru, Cusurichi has been awarded the Goldman Prize, worth US$125,000.

Despite receiving numerous threats, he has continued in his determination to protect even those tribes that live without any contact with the modern world, and he was instrumental in setting up a 7,688 square kilometer tribal reserve. He is equally vociferous in defense of the rainforest ecosystem.

For more information, see the Goldman Prize website, http://www.goldmanprize.org/node/608 The site includes photos and video of Cusurichi’s work, and of his acceptance speech – dressed in his full tribal regalia.

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