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Controversial Catholic Priest Pushing Amazon Road

Controversial Catholic Priest Pushing Amazon Road

Indigenous people are asking the Vatican to remove a controversial Catholic priest who is pushing for a road through a remote part of Peru’s Amazon region.

The road through a national park in the Purus region in southeast Peru would threaten two uncontacted tribes, including the Mashco-Piro, photographs of whom made headlines around the world in January. Uncontacted tribes are extremely vulnerable to any form of contact with outsiders because they do not have immunity to Western diseases.

Miguel Piovesan, who is Italian, has been vigorously promoting the highway in his parish magazine, on the parish radio and even during mass in the local church.

FECONAPU, an indigenous organization based in Perus’s only town where almost everyone is indigenous, Puerto Esperanza, says that Piovesan is running a “disinformation campaign” and that he has “insulted,” “mocked,” “humiliated” and “defamed” Purus’s indigenous residents opposed to his plans.

The priest has previously denied the existence of the tribes, leading one critic to describe him as “believing in the existence of God but not in indigenous people who live in voluntary isolation.”

FECONAPU wants the Vatican to remove the priest and are questioning his “real motives.”

“It’s reprehensible that a representative of God should adopt this kind of attitude,” says ORAU, an indigenous organization, based in Pucallpa, to which FECONAPU is affiliated. “It’s an attitude that is far removed from his role as an evangelist and quite different from what is recommended by the Catholic church.”

Peru’s Bishops have opposed the economic exploitation of the Amazon.

The indigenous people are supported by the director of the national park, Arsenio Calle Cordova, who says that a road will lead to massive illegal logging, particularly of ‘red gold’ — mahogony — as has happened elsewhere in the Amazon. Others have warned it will lead to a flood of drug trafficking, mining and poaching of animals.

Another threat is from ‘human safaris,’ as practiced in India’s Andaman Islands, or massacres. Local tour guides are reported to already be offering such ‘safaris’ to see the Mashco-Piro.

Last year, I reported on how a Brazilian NGO had alleged that Amazonian loggers had ‘burned alive’ a child from uncontacted members of the Awá, and last month on how Colin Firth has launched a campaign to save ‘Earth’s most threatened tribe’ – the Awá of the Brazilian Amazon, many of whom are the survivors of brutal massacres.

The World Wildlife Fund says that the region contains “a vast portion of the Amazon in its original state.”

Piovesan has received support from members of Peru’s parliament, who say they will lobby for the road’s construction, but international law recognizes the Indians’ land as theirs, just as it recognizes their right to live on it as they want to.

Peru has been ignoring United Nations guidance and past experience and allowing oil and gas exploration in the region. In the early 1980s, Shell workers opened up paths into the uncontacted Nahua Indians’ land. Diseases soon wiped out half the tribe.

You can support Survival International’s campaign against the road here.

Related stories:

Indian Tribe ‘Forced to Dance for Tourists for Food’ (Video)

Colin Firth Pleads for Uncontacted Tribe’s Survival (Video)

New Pictures of Uncontacted Amazonian Tribe

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Picture of Mashco-Piro people courtesy Survival International

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121 comments

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5:48AM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Thx.

3:23AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

thanks

2:37PM PDT on May 18, 2012

That priest should be kicked out of Peru. But that won't happen, since the Roman Catholic church is a strong power all through Latin-America. And eventhough the Peruvian bisshops seem to stand up for their flock in this case, they won't get much help from the Vatican.
Our "beloved" pope Hypocritus XVI, while known for his special dedication to the South-American Church, is also known for his overt support for violent dictators and rich and powerful mining- and logging entrepreneurs and major landowners. His total contempt for the poor in general and for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon in particular is also no big secret. There's no help to be expected from that side, a new road opens another area for conversion and exploitation by the Catholic church (and the other Christian missionaries who usually follow suit.) Conversion to Christianity is a cultural poison for these vulnerable communities.

7:10AM PDT on May 18, 2012

The Peruvian Government should just kick that man out of the country and ban him from ever entering again.
These tribes will not ONLY be introduced to diseases, but the road could destroy waterways, change the paths of animals, both of which will cause the two tribes to either have to move and cause a chain reaction, shifting the balance of power over other tribal lands leading to wars and deaths, or cause them to have to travel further and further from their families leaving the women, children and elders exposed not only to the dangers of the jungle but also to the dangers of loggers and workers.

9:32PM PDT on May 16, 2012

It is beyond belief that these crooks have ANY one following them ...just big business as usual for the Vatican ...the sooner the Italian govt taxes the pants off the church the better !
This idiot is going to kill these people ...

2:24AM PDT on May 16, 2012

Mother earth @ female 2 mother nature @ female 2 criminal justice systems @ female - green activist

10:33PM PDT on May 15, 2012

the priest to becoming a priest should be to have oneself casterated! It'll calm them down and keep our kids safe too! Let the Vatican 1st build a road to redemption for killing millions upon millions , in the name of Christ, to make indigenous "savages" into Christian God loving people who part with their wallets at the beck n call of the church!
If there is a True nature loving hitman/woman out there ...could we please discuss some urgent business in Peru?

3:00PM PDT on May 15, 2012

typical priest. if he's not after lil boys ,he's trying to ravage the land.mind,it's not just christians,it's any religion.there all trash.

9:50AM PDT on May 15, 2012

Elaine A. you are probably right. There has to be some sort of motivation for this priest. I mean, he is catholic so nothing is done just out of good but out of money for him and his church of zealot followers. Typical they can believe in god and that a man walked on water but there cannot be any people on this earth that perhaps no one even knows about.

8:34AM PDT on May 15, 2012

What does he REALLY want...An opportunity at the young boys?

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