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Cablegate: Killings and Kidnappings by Indigenous Group

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: The murder of four health workers
followed by the kidnapping of a journalist and his assistant
by indigenous Aguaruna tribesmen sparked speculation that
these incidents were linked to efforts to cover up local
opium cultivation and trafficking. An ongoing police
investigation, however, indicates that this is not/not the
case. The two hostages were released on 5/10, after a
high-level GOP team agreed to consider Aguaruna requests for
health, education, and communication infrastructure
assistance. The Aguaruna agreed to cooperate with the police
investigation and denied that opium was being cultivated in
the area, inviting the authorities to overfly the area. A
U.S. AT-65 plane conducting reconnaissance for possible opium
poppy fields temporarily suspended operations in the area
during the hostage crisis, but we intend to resume flights
there soon. End Summary.

2. (U) On 5/6 a group of Aguarunas, an indigenous people,
took a journalist and his assistant hostage in Pampa Entsa in
the province of Condorcanqui, Amazonas Department. A
high-level Technical Commission composed of Ministry of
Interior representatives and police met with Aguaruna
leadership on 5/10 and successfully negotiated the release of
the two hostages. The Aguaruna leaders agreed to cooperate
with the police investigation into the killing of four GOP
health workers in late April, and invited the authorities to
fly around the site of the murders (Tagkijap) to confirm
Aguaruna claims that there are no/no opium poppy fields in
the area. The Aguaruna leadership also requested that the
GOP construct health and education centers and roads in the
communities and install community telephones, radios, and
solar panels. The Commission agreed to bring these requests
back to the appropriate government agencies.

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3. (U) On 5/3 a search party in Numpatkain discovered the
four bodies of a Ministry of Health team which had been
missing since 4/20. The team had been providing medical
assistance to Aguaruna communities. Press reports indicate
that three of the four had been killed by shots to the head,
while the fourth had been beaten to death, but our police
sources have not yet confirmed this report. On 5/5 the
Organization of Indigenous People of the Northern Amazon
Region of Peru released a statement claiming that inebriated
Aguaruna tribesmen in the community of Tagkijap had murdered
the health team. The statement explained that some women in
the community had complained that the victims obliged them to
disrobe in public for examinations and that the tribesmen,
who had been celebrating Mitayo, a traditional festival,
responded with a drunken rampage.

4. (SBU) Some press and local leaders, however, speculated
that the deaths were related to narcotrafficking as they
believe there is significant opium poppy cultivation and
trafficking in the area. National Police and Public Ministry
authorities are investigating the murders; the latest
information we have received indicates that the authorities
believe that the murders were not/not narco-related.

5. (SBU) According to conversations with contacts familiar
with the program, the health workers were unlikely to behave
in a grossly insensitive manner since they were trained and
at least two of the four were experienced in the communities.
The health worker program (ELITE) has been in place since
1998 with no other fatal incidents. One year ago, another
ELITE group was denied access to an Aguaruna community
because the community feared the health workers were police.
According to sources, one month prior to the murders,
Aguarunas in the community believed that police were looking
for opium poppy around their community.

6. (SBU) A U.S. AT-65 plane conducting reconnaissance for
possible opium poppy fields in the area temporarily suspended
operations in the region, pending resolution of the Aguaruna
situation. The plane was deployed to the Tingo Maria area to
continue reconnaissance in the meantime.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Intelligence gathered from local
authorities and the police points to large-scale opium poppy
cultivation and a surge in violent crime in the area in
question, especially around the town of Jaen. While the
Aguaruna have not/not been previously linked to the opium
trade, it is certainly possible that they have reached an
understanding with traffickers. Most Aguaruna are
monolingual and have limited contact with the outside world,
but bilingual members of the community could act as
go-betweens. The Aguaruna lands are remote and largely
off-limits to GOP officials, making them potentially
attractive to opium poppy growers and traffickers. END

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