Cleric battling to save rainforest from loggers fights expulsion

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hero to Amazon tribes is ordered out after 20 years of campaigning against oil giants

A A A

To the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, Paul McAuley is a hero who has helped them stand up to the legions of rapacious mining, oil and logging companies operating in their jungle homeland.

His enemies have a different opinion of the Catholic missionary. They have branded him a "Tarzan agitator", a "white terrorist" and an "incendiary gringo priest".

Last night Mr McAuley, 62, was desperately trying to launch a last minute legal appeal to stop his expulsion from Peru after the government revoked his residency status.

Mr McAuley, a lay member of the De La Salle Christian Brothers order, has lived in Peru for more than 20 years and has spent much of the past decade urging indigenous tribes to stand up for their rights and protect the local environment.

But Peruvian President Alan Garcia's government, which has eased restrictions on oil and gas companies operating in the jungle, accuses him of inciting unrest.

Last week, Mr McAuley was informed that he was being expelled from the country because he was engaged in activities that "put at risk the security of the state, public order and the national defence".

The fight to keep him in Peru has attracted supporters from a broad spectrum, including the Catholic Church, Hollywood actress Q'orianka Kilcher, environmentalists and Amnesty International.

Kilcher, best known for her portrayal of Pocahontas in the 2005 film The New World, first met "Brother Paul" four years ago in the Loreto, Peru's north-eastern jungle state where much of the mining in the Amazon is carried out. Writing on her blog, the 20-year-old actress – whose father is Quechua Indian – angrily attacked the Peruvian government over their decision to expel the lay preacher.

"Brother Paul has never advocated violence but has promoted education and negotiation as the way to enact social change," she wrote.

"Yet he stands accused of taking part in political protest and is to be deported from the country to which he has devoted his life, without any chance to defend himself." She added: "The revoking of his residency sends a message of intolerance, inequality and a complete lack of respect for human rights and free speech."

The exact whereabouts of Mr McAuley was not known last night. A spokesperson for the De La Salle Brothers in Britain said they had reached him by telephone earlier in the week but had since lost contact with him.

Indigenous people in Loreto's capital, Iquitos, have been holding protests over the deportation. According to local reports, a number of indigenous women have offered to marry the missionary to keep him in the country.

Mr McAuley denied breaking any laws in a telephone interview with the BBC World Service. "Education is often accused of inciting people to understand their rights, to be capable of organising themselves to ensure their human rights," he said.

"If that's a crime, then yes, I'm guilty. As a member of a Catholic order my life's been dedicated to human and Christian education."

Indigenous tribes have long complained that the Peruvian government has given multinational companies carte blanche to operate in the Amazon with little compensation for locals.

Last summer tensions boiled over when the government sent in police to break up a roadblock that had been built by indigenous protesters outside the city of Bagua. At least 23 police officers and 10 civilians lost their lives as the protest was forcefully broken up.

In April, violence flared up once again, when six miners were killed after police fired live rounds to disperse a crowd of 2,000 demonstrators in the town of Chala. Alberto Pizango, president of a group which represents 65 Amazon indigenous peoples, wrote to Mr McAuley to express solidarity. "This government only thinks about the earnings of big foreign companies, which have become the main beneficiaries of the state," he said.

Mr Pizango was only recently released from prison after he was accused of organising the protests in Bagua. The deadline given to the British-born environmentalist to leave the country was due to expire last night but his supporters were hoping a legal challenge would give him at least a temporary reprieve.

Godly campaigners

Sister Dorothy Stang

An American-born nun who spent most of her adult life in the Brazilian rainforest, her passionate environmentalism eventually led to her death. She was gunned down by two men. Ms Stang fought for years for indigenous people in the Brazilian rainforest as illegal logging cut vast swathes through the jungle. After a series of mistrials, her killers, Vitalmiro Moura and Regivaldo Galvão, were convicted earlier this year and sentenced to 30 years.

Oscar Romero

Regarded by many as the unofficial saint of Latin America, the Salvadoran bishop was a prominent supporter of liberation theology in Latin America and lambasted the US for its support of right-wing dictatorships. He was assassinated in 1980 while celebrating mass. Hailed as "San Romero" by Salvadorans, Archbishop Romero's path to sainthood has stalled in recent years.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own