In an unprecedented court settlement, reparations were guaranteed to the Ashaninka people of the state of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon, whose lands were deforested in the 1980s to supply the European furniture industry. The logging company penalized was owned by the family of the current governor of Acre, Gladson Cameli.
The conflict was resolved through mediation from the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, after the case had circulated in the courts with no resolution for 20 years. The indigenous people only agreed with the negotiation because it included an official apology and a recognition of their “enormous importance as guardians” of the Amazon.
Far from the Brazil nut trees that shape the landscape of the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Reserve in the western tip of the state of Acre, the Ashaninka people realized their most important victory since the federal government first recognized their territory in 1992. On April 1, 2020, the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, signed an unprecedented settlement that guaranteed reparations for crimes committed almost 40 years ago. The agreement gives this indigenous community the right to compensation of R$ 14 million (nearly US$ 3 million) with an official apology from the criminal offenders.
Their crime included cutting down thousands of mahogany, cedar, and other tree species to supply the European furniture industry from 1981 to 1987. The devastation affected a quarter of the area that currently comprises the indigenous reserve. Francisco Piyãko, the Ashaninka leader, was an adolescent at the time of the logging invasion.
“What matters to us is what this agreement represents for the Ashaninka cause and how it can have repercussions in affirming the rights and values of the indigenous peoples in a broader sense,” explained Piyãko.