CEU Students pay tribute to Quinto Inuma Peruvian indigenous environmental defender, and other environmental defenders across Latin America

April 22, 2024

The panel discussion titled "Environmental Defenders: Their Story of Courage and Resilience" was held at Central European University (CEU). This event, initiated by students from the Environmental Science and Policy Department (ENVS) in collaboration with the Student Engagement Office, Student Union and Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, aimed to pay tribute to Quinto Inuma, a Peruvian indigenous environmental defender, and other environmental defenders across Latin America. The decision to organize the event was driven by the urgency and significance of the situation surrounding the capture of the main suspects in the murder of the environmental defender Quinto Inuma. Despite this important development, justice for Quinto Inuma and accountability for his murder are still pending.  

Quinto Inuma tragically lost his life defending approximately 23 hectares of the Peruvian Amazon Forest against deforestation. His story, along with those of other environmental defenders, highlights the ongoing struggles faced by indigenous and local communities in protecting their territories and natural resources from extractive economic activities. 

Approximately 50 individuals from CEU and other universities in Vienna participated in the event. The session commenced with an introduction to Latin America and its environmental defenders by master students of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Ana Olmedo and Catalina Gomez (2023-2024). Bianca Centeno (2023-2025) shared Quinto Inuma's story, followed by a documentary presentation of the fights of environmental defenders in the defense of their territories in Latinamerica. The event concluded with a thought-provoking panel discussion featuring Dr. Julia Carolin Sachseder and Ph.D. Gina D'Alesandro as panelists, moderated by Dr. Anke Schaffartzik. Reka Marton (2023-2024) served as the master of ceremonies, guiding the audience through the event's proceedings.  

The panelist shared their research and their main conclusions highlighting different forms of violence that is exercised in the territory of indigenous peoples and communities due to extractivism, capitalism and colonialism. Likewise, emphasis was placed on the need to know the stories of environmental defenders beyond the numbers, therefore, the stories of different environmental leaders in Latin America were shared from their own voices through video presentations: Quinto and Manuel Inuma Alvarado from Peru, Máxima Acuña from Peru and Berta Caceres From Honduras, emphasizing their special relationship with the territory, communality and the relationship with nature through "well living". Finally, we reflected on the role of the academy, discussing how we can provide support, forum and agency to the communities that are affected by extractive violence in their work of defense of their territories and nature. Acknowledging that indigenous people are the best allies to address climate change, being them the ones who protect around 80% of the world biodiversity (World Bank, 2021). 

Finally, a small reception allowed attendees to exchange ideas and reflections touching upon the expositions about the violence in the capitalist economy, the relation of the land with communities in Latin America, and the roles of environmental defenders. 

Overall, the event successfully shed light on the stories of courageous individuals from the region, reclaiming space in an international academic forum and amplifying their voices within the CEU community and beyond. Creating connections between students from around the globe with social causes and the realities faced in Latin America is crucial. By doing so, research work can transcend academic boundaries and truly make an impact on society and nature with empathy and an intercultural approach.  

If you would like to support Quinto Inuma’s family directly please write to bianca.noemi.centeno@gmail.com