Peru's Environment Ministry have said that 29,000 hectares of Ucayali’s forests were cleared in 2016.
Alleged criminal activity
involving civil servants, government officials, judges and business owners in
the eastern Peruvian region of Ucayali has been identified as a driver of
deforestation in the area as illegally acquired forested lands are converted to
palm and rice cultivation, according to a report in
In December anti-corruption police in the Ucayali region of Peru raided the Regional Directorate of Agriculture of Ucayali (DRAU) and arrested its boss, Isaac Huamán Pérez.
head of DRAU’s Directorate of Legal Physical Sanitation of Agrarian Property (DISAFILPA),
Christopher Hernández Larrañaga, was also arrested.
The two men were accused of land
trafficking by illegally holding indigenous and public lands on behalf of other
civil servants and of mayors in Ucayali.
According to court documents, workers at DISAFILPA have allegedly colluded to falsify property titles with the full knowledge of the heads of the two agencies.
The land in question
allegedly includes permanent production forests – which cannot be converted for
agricultural use – and conservation areas that were apparently sold to foreign
According to Peru’s Forests and
property titles cannot be granted for any lands “in the public domain that are
capable of forestry use or protection with or without forest cover”.
The illegal issuance of property
titles by the DRAU and its offices – a corruption scheme that involves civil
servants, politicians, businessmen and judges – is reportedly behind violent
land disputes and deforestation.
In flights over the region
organised by the Peruvian Air Force, Mongabay Latam documented deforestation of
Amazon forests for rice and palm cultivation.
According to the Environment
Ministry, 72,000 acres (29,000 hectares) of Ucayali’s forests were cleared in
Prosecutor José Guzmán Ferro told
Mongabay that land traffickers have created agricultural associations and front
companies whose partners – businessmen and government officials – get access to
land through the illegal issuance of titles by DRAU and its DISAFILPA office.
According to Mongabay,
in 2017 as many as 300,000ha of forests were being targeted by agricultural
associations and their backers at DRAU to be converted for crops and ranching.
Mongabay has cited evidence that
large companies are behind the deforestation documented by the aerial reconnaissance
as it was done by heavy machinery not owned by local farmers.
The situation in Ucayali has also led to conflict. In the community of Santa Clara de Uchunya, the Shipobo indigenous people have struggled against the Ocho Sur Pucallpa oil palm plantation – owned by American businessman Dennis Melka – for invading indigenous land.
In 2017, Mongabay reported on the murder of six people in connection with the dispute over the possession of 450ha of forested land in Ucayali.
Despite the prohibition in the law, one of
the parties in the dispute was able to obtain property titles for the land in
question, classified as permanent production forest, as a result of land