Paul McAuley: British environmental activist found 'burned to death' in Peru

Catholic missionary worked on behalf of indigenous communities to battle powerful oil and mining interests

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Wednesday 03 April 2019 11:14
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Authorities investigating after 71-year-old found by students hostel he ran in Amazon city of Iquitos
Authorities investigating after 71-year-old found by students hostel he ran in Amazon city of Iquitos

A British environmental activist has reportedly been found burned ​to death in Peru.

Paul McAuley, 71, was a Catholic missionary who had worked on behalf of the country's indigenous communities to battle powerful oil and mining interests.

His body was found by students in the Amazon city of Iquitos on Tuesday.

Authorities are questioning six indigenous youth who lived in the hostel he managed in a poor area of the city.

The religious order Mr McAuley belonged to, the La Salle Christian Brothers, said in a statement he had been burned to death.

Mr McAuley faced expulsion in 2010 when the government tried to strip him of his residency for allegedly inciting unrest after he fought attempts to open up the Amazon to drilling.

He denied breaking any laws, telling 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.

"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."

In 2004, he founded the Loreto Environmental Network, a group that works on behalf of indigenous groups.

He and environmentalists opposed then-president Alan Garcia's moves to open up the Amazon to unprecedented mining and oil exploration and drilling.

They also complained Mr Garcia's government had done little to impede rampant logging, which they say threatens the existence of indigenous groups.

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Environmental activists paid tribute to Mr McAuley.

"What tough news. A great man who did a lot for indigenous communities, their rights and the forests," tweeted Julia Urrunaga, director of Peru Programs at Environmental Investigation Agency.

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