A British religious environmental activist in Peru has won the right to remain in the country while he fights an expulsion order.
On July 1st, McAuley (photo), a Christian Brother, who has led the environmental group "Red Ambiental Loretana" ("Loreto Environmental Network") since 2006, received a letter from the Peruvian Ministry of the Interior canceling his residency "for acts against the public domestic order" and ordering him to leave the country within seven days.
McAuley has lived in Peru for over 20 years and for the last decade he has worked with indigenous groups in Peru's vast Amazon region, teaching them their environmental and land rights and advocating for them, often against the powerful logging and petroleum interests. Among his activities, McAuley had filed formal complaints with the Constitutional Court against the logging concessions and oil pollution complaints against companies like Argentina's Pluspetrol. In February, McAuley helped Kichwa Indians file complaints with Peruvian prosecutors charging contamination of the Tigre River and its tributaries, allegedly by 35 years of oil drilling by Pluspetrol. The Peruvian government views these activities as political agitation, prohibited for a foreigner. "Brother Paul," as he is known in the communities where he works, has been awarded an MBE for setting up a school in Lima. Had he not already given it away some years ago he says he would have sent it back to the Queen to protest British companies' involvement in the Amazon.
McAuley's lawyers have filed a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the environmentalist had not been properly notified nor had been entitled to defense and due process.
The Catholic Church and indigenous and human rights groups such as the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos and the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana are supporting his appeal. Amnesty International said the expulsion order appeared "to be one step further in a campaign of intimidation by the government against indigenous communities and human rights defenders who work with them". Hundreds of indigenous people have also demonstrated in support of Mr McAuley in Iquitos.
The Comisión Episcopal de Acción Social, the social action arm of the Peruvian Bishops Conference, has organized a prayer vigil in support of Mr. McAuley tomorrow, July 8th, at 5:00 p.m. in the chapel of Colegio de La Salle in Lima.
See also The fight for the Peruvian rainforest, a July 2009 documentary short about Paul McAuley's work.