Peru Government Determined to Expel British Missionary

Lima, Peru – Peruvian Prime Minister Javier Velasquez Quesquen confirmed Monday that the government will not “back down” in its decision to expel a British missionary for participating in protests against mining and oil drilling in the Amazon.

Velasquez told reporters that, according to international treaties, “foreigners cannot participate in political activities.”

“So, we’re not going to back down in the decision we’ve made, but certainly we will guarantee due process. This is an administrative action that can be appealed, it can be reconsidered,” he said.

The Interior Ministry on June 11 ordered the expulsion of Brother Paul McAuley, who heads the environmental group Red Ambiental Loretana, for participating in anti-government marches in the city of Iquitos.

The 62-year-old McAuley, a lay member of the Catholic De La Salle teaching order, told Efe last week after receiving the expulsion notification that his work with the environmental network was dedicated to “monitoring the use of natural resources and, above all, the rights of those who live in the forests.”

He added that as part of his activities he presented motions before the Constitutional Court against the lumber concessions and complaints about the pollution caused by companies like Argentine oil company Pluspetrol.

Velasquez said Monday that while the government “acknowledges the enormous contribution the Catholic Church has made in the process of the historical development” of Peru, “allowing foreigners in the country to carry out activities inciting protests against a developmental model” endorsed by Peruvian voters at the polls “cannot be allowed.”

He rejected the charge that President Alan Garcia’s government could be considered a spokesman for the petroleum or mining firms because, he said, what it is defending is employment and the investments that those firms make.

McAuley confirmed that his lawyers will ask that the resolution ordering his expulsion be overturned and he added that he hopes that “at least” he will be given more time to leave the country, since he has been given only until Thursday to leave Peru.

The missionary was not involved in the protests last summer that resulted in deadly clashes between Amazon Indians and Peruvian police.