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22 March 2021

Following the murder of indigenous human rights defender, Estela Casanto, killed for defending her community’s ancestral lands, the Bishops of the Peruvian Amazon have called for urgent meetings with national and regional governments, while aid workers have appealed for international support.

In their statement, the eight Bishops of the Peruvian Amazon expressed their “deep indignation” and “total solidarity with the families, the indigenous peoples and their representative organisations” following an unprecedented number of assassinations and threats towards human rights and land defenders in the Peruvian Amazon.

Sparked by Estela Casanto’s recent murder, who was a leader and founder of the native community of Shankivironi, they explained how this is only the latest in a growing number of killings and threats towards indigenous communities.

“It is a tragic example of the lack of protection in which they find themselves,” read the statement.

“The situation that indigenous peoples, and those who defend them, face shows that the efforts made by the State have been totally insufficient to protect them and guarantee the legal protection of their territories.”

According to Global Witness, the numbers of killings in the Peruvian Amazon has grown exponentially – from one killing in 2019 to seven in 2020. This was despite Peru enforcing some of the strictest lockdowns worldwide. 

“We see that land grabbing, the invasion of communal territories, the expansion of drug trafficking, and monoculture plantations, especially oil palm, are advancing in various parts of the Amazon,” continued the statement.

“All this in the midst of growing corruption among public officials and discriminatory treatment of indigenous people who defend their territories and demand their land titles.”

This call for urgent action has been echoed by charities and aid agencies across the region.

Lucy Jardine, Peru Programme Officer for the international development charity CAFOD, which has worked alongside communities in Peru since 1968, said:

“For most, 2020 will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Peruvian indigenous communities, it will also be known as the year when the murder of their people, struggling to protect their land and rights, reached an all-time high.

“We cannot stand by and be silent. Indigenous communities are fighting to protect our planet – our common home. We too must fight, for their protection.”

The Bishops concluded their statement calling for an urgent dialogue to be established between indigenous leaders, authorities, and local civil society organisations.

“We support the cry for justice and protection for indigenous defenders. And, we urge the State to urgently establish a process of intercultural dialogue in good faith with the Amazonian indigenous organisations, in order to put an end to the threats and deaths of indigenous defenders, and territorial legal insecurity.”

The killing of and threats towards land and human rights defenders is an unsettling growing trend.

Globally, last year was the deadliest ever to be a land and human right defender. According to Frontline Defenders’ most recent report, 331 human rights defenders were killed in the past twelve months. This is up from 304 killings last year and is the highest total ever.

Notes to editors

For further information and interviews with spokespeople, please contact: Elouise Hobbs,, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426, Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429  

  • Find out more about CAFOD’s work in Peru at:

  • CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. We reach out to people living in poverty with practical help, whatever their religion or culture. Help us build a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.