Three weeks after the murder of environmental defender Roberto Carlos Pacheco Villanueva, the Madre de Dios police arrested three of the five alleged perpetrators of the crime yesterday. According to General Marco Antonio Lara, head of the Macro Police Region of Puno, the mastermind of the murder would be Hilario Mamani Churata, vice president of the Los Hijos de Madre de Dios Association of Ecological Farmers.

Demetrio Pacheco, father of the deceased and vice president of the Management Committee of the Tambopata National Reserve, specified in an interview that on up to eight occasions he reported to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Environmental Matters (FEMA) invasions into his territory by this association. According to Pacheco, the invasions of his concession of 842 hectares of forest began in 2012. Since then, he added, both he and his son have been victims of threats.

Leonidas Crisologo Mujica Mayorga, former police officer and member of the aforementioned association, and Rolando Becerra Raime were the other two detainees after the investigation carried out by a police team made up of agents from the High Complexity Crime Investigation Division (Diviac) of Lima and police officers from Madre de Dios. General Lara told that the other two implicated are still being searched and that a request for preventive detention will be presented against the detainees no later than next Saturday.

Invaders and hitmen

The police investigations include an analysis of what could have happened in the last moments of Roberto Pacheco’s life. On the morning of September 10, the police say, when he left his house located on the left bank of the Interoceanic highway, at kilometer 74, the criminals already knew that he would cross this highway, since part of their routine was to monitor the forest concession that he owns with his father and where the members of the farmers’ association are installed.

The killers were waiting for him, police said in a meeting with local media. When Roberto Pacheco crosses the road, at that moment a young man driving a cargo ship passes by, and then the criminals approach the victim to assault her. When resisting, they beat, tie and cover Pacheco’s body with a blanket. Within minutes, around 11:30 am on September 10, the young man who was driving the freighter heard the two shots. According to the police, these would have been the ones who ended the life of Demetrio Pacheco’s son.

Hours later, at a tap at kilometer 6 of the Interoceanic Highway, the local police intervened four people suspected of committing crimes in La Pampa. Among those arrested were Leonidas Mujica, Rolando Becerra and a 20-year-old Venezuelan citizen. After the intervention, the police had to release them. A short time later they would establish that they were involved in Pacheco’s death.

For the police officers, the foreign citizen would be the material author of the murder. General Lara detailed to Mongabay Latam that he would have charged around 10,000 soles for carrying out this crime. “We have information that could be found in Asis, Brazil. We are going to ask the judge to request the international arrest of this person ”, added the police chief.

A death foretold

The threats and attacks by the invaders against the Pacheco family have been constant. In 2017, Roberto Carlos Pacheco was beaten and threatened with a weapon and a machete. Months later, when Pacheco found members of this association on his land, the attackers put the barrel of a gun in his mouth and even left a bullet on his dining room table.

The name of Hilario Mamani Churata is not strange for Demetrio Pacheco, father of the victim. On February 10, 2017, he reported to the prosecutor Luz Apaza Terán of the fourth FEMA office that members of the Association of Ecological Farmers Los Hijos de Madre de Dios were carrying out illegal logging of timber and chestnut trees within their concession.

In the fiscal file, it is observed that in December 2017 the preliminary investigation was extended to several members of the association, including Hilario Mamani, for crimes against natural resources. According to the Penal Code, this crime carries a penalty of five to twelve years in prison.

“The murder of my son could be prevented, there were constant alerts,” Demetrio Pacheco tells Mongabay Latam. Now, Pacheco asks that there be a clear response to the complaints he has imposed in recent years for invasion and deforestation of his property.

Meanwhile, the environmental defender comments that, although he was promised police protection, he has only seen a police officer three times at his home during these three weeks. “The prefect of Madre de Dios told me that I have to approach the Laberinto police station to coordinate the protection,” says Pacheco.

Next step: preventive detention

General Lara commented that although the preliminary detention of these three implicated persons has a period of seven days, the police have “solid evidence” that will allow them to request the preventive detention of these people. “If they confess, in good time; But the police have solid evidence that has led the magistrate to authorize the arrest, ”he adds.

The police chief indicated that a secret survey of communications has been carried out, which helped reach the accused. Likewise, Demetrio Pacheco told Mongabay Latam that in one of the last times that his son entered his concession, last April, he recorded the encounter he had with some of these subjects. In the recording, Pacheco has been able to identify that his son asks Hilario Mamani to leave his land, while Mamani indicates that he will not leave.

“These types of associations are used to enter land and displace holders and owners. If there is any objection, they proceed the way they have done, ”General Lara told local media in Madre de Dios last night.

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