Tuesday, 25 December 2007

LOS ASHANINKAS















Deep in the Peruvian Jungle an unreported struggle intensifies, as globalisation, under its many guises, threatens the very survival of the tribe of the Asháninkas.

From semi-nomadic habits they saw themselves obliged to be completely sedentary. There are no longer the conditions to hunt, to fish and grow crops like their forfathers. The Asháninkas live in their aloted land, richly proud of their own cultural identity, and willing to fight for it.

When the Spanish conquistadors came they were unable to outdo the tribe. Even to much more recent times, the Asháninkas held off the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, losing 5,000 their population, displacing another 10,000. Only 4,000 were left.

The violence is still present by the insurgence of Sendero or because of the development of a form of ‘narcoterrorism’ not easily identifiable as Sendero anymore. Those Asháninkas that left and then in the hope of returning to their communities came, found their lands invaded coca plant growers.

The menace that faces the tribe today comes in different forms. The heavy demand for cocaine has meant that low density farmers emigrating from the Andes; have begun to clear land for exclusive coca growth. Illegal loggers also continue stripping the rain forest. A further obstacle now are the Spanish and Peruvian petroleum companies encroaching on what little is left of their ancestral land.

Spanish petroleum company, Repsol, has given them only broken promises. In saying they would assist with medical care and improve sanitation it has only expanded into lands not corresponding to them.

“The government does not consult, it only informs the community” says Ruth Buendía, president of CARE (Community of Asháninka of the River Ene) in response to the expansions in the jungle area of the river Ene. Buendia, 32, is fighting so that the land, which she says was entitled to them, is not vanquished. “Investment must be consulted with the people living here to see whether it is favourable or not.”

The population is composed mainly of women and children, widows and orphans. There is a huge deficit of men and of the young of both sexes, because so many have died at the hands of subversives or are controlled by them.

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