A British religious activist who faced expulsion from Peru a decade ago for his work on behalf of indigenous communities was found dead Tuesday at a youth hostel he ran in the Amazon rain forest.
Paul McAuley, 71, had long worked to embolden Peru’s historically discriminated tribes in the battle against powerful oil and mining interests.
The La Salle Christian Brothers, a religious order that Mr McAuley belonged to, said in a statement Tuesday that the lay activist had been burned to death.
Born in Portsmouth, Mr McAuley had lived in Peru for 20 years and had been awarded an MBE for establishing a school in a disadvantaged area of Lima, the Peruvian capital.
In 2010, the government tried unsuccessfully to strip him of his residency for allegedly inciting unrest after he fought attempts to open up the Amazon to drilling.
The court battle led to hundreds of people demonstrating in support of the Briton, who was eventually allowed to stay in the country.
Authorities are questioning six indigenous youth who lived in the hostel Mr McAuley managed in the city of Iquitos.
In 2004, McAuley 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 that Garcia’s government has done little to impede rampant logging, which they say threatens the existence of indigenous groups.
Environmental activists mourned his passing Tuesday.
"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.