Police seek Canadian in murder of Amazon indigenous activist

Peruvian officials said Friday they are searching for a Canadian national suspected of murdering an Amazon jungle indigenous leader and rights activist.

Olivia Arevalo, an 81-year-old respected leader of the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous community, died after she was shot five times on Thursday in a town in the Ucayali region, in northeastern Peru.

“It appears that a Canadian committed the crime,” said Elena Burga, a senior official at the ministry of culture.

Investigations are under way “to learn what was the motive and what exactly happened,” Burga said on state-run TV Peru.

A man with a foreign accent went to Arevalo’s home and called her by her name, according to the Peruvian indigenous rights group the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest.

When Arevalo opened the door, the man opened fire at short range without saying a word, then fled on a motorcycle.

Burga said that authorities are looking into whether the murder was over personal issues or was the targeted killing of an indigenous leader.

Peru’s prime minister Cesar Villanueva, who was born in the Amazon rainforest region, said he was “very troubled” by Arevalo’s murder and promised government support to track down the killer.

There are some 31,000 ethnic Shipibo-Konibo people living in Peru’s Amazon jungle region.

This is not the first such murder. In September 2014, four leaders of the indigenous Ashaninka people were killed in the Ucayali region on the border with Brazil. Illegal loggers and drug traffickers had earlier threatened the leaders. (AFP)