British missionary laybrother Paul McAuley, 62, has been told to leave Peru, where he has served for 20 years, after the authorities accused him of inciting unrest among indigenous peoples protesting environmental damage from oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest.
With the backing of his institute, the La Salle Christian Brothers, McAuley has appealed the decision with the courts in Lima in an attempt to reverse the decision. Wednesday was the last day he was allowed to stay in Peru according to the expulsion order.
The Peruvian government says that Br Paul had participated in “activities that contrast with his migratory status and actions that compromise the security of the state, the public order and national defense”.
Heading the ‘Red Ambiental Loretana’ (the Loreto Environmental Network) the ‘civil society’ organization founded in 2004 for the ‘protection of the environment and human rights of the native communities in Iquitos, in the region of Loreto (about 1000 km. northeast of Lima), Br McAuley is accused of having participated and instigated protest marches against the government.
In February, Br McAuley helped Kichwa Indians file complaints with Peruvian prosecutors charging contamination of the Tigre River and its tributaries, allegedly by 35 years of oil drilling by the Argentine company Pluspetrol. McAuley told the AP on Tuesday that he was still awaiting a response.
While he said he had no hard data on the alleged contamination, McAuley said studies published by Peru's health ministry in 2005 found that Achuar Indians living along the Corrientes river "all had cadmium and lead in their blood." He blames the oil drilling.
Peruvian environmental activists say the expulsion of McAuley would send the wrong signal to the country's native peoples just as the Garcia government says it wants to negotiate in good faith with them over developing the Amazon for the benefit of all Peruvians.
"This is a very special moment in the history of the Peruvian Amazon. At no time have there been so many projects, so big and being proposed and developed simultaneously," Mariano Castro, a lawyer with the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, told the AP.
"I think that, effectively, people like Brother Paul cause discomfort in such a scenario."
We Need Your Support
ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.
Please support our journalism by donating today.Donate