Archive for the ‘Peru’ Category

PERU: Escalating Conflicts Put Pres. García on the Spot

July 13, 2007

Former members of t he shining path are said to be playing a
prominent role in the current unrest in Peru

PERU: Escalating Conflicts Put Pres. García on the Spot

LIMA, Jul 12 (IPS) – Three people dead, several injured, and fire at an airport: the results of a wave of protests in Peru, regarded as the worst social crisis since Alan García became president nearly one year ago. Thousands of teachers, workers and peasant farmers continued the mobilisation Thursday.

“The people who are protesting are desperate because the economy is growing but nothing in their lives has improved. Their demands will continue until wealth is better distributed,” Víctor Gorriti Candela, deputy chief of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP), told IPS.

The workers are demanding that the government enforce labour laws, eliminate outsourcing of services, tax high mining profits, revise the free trade agreement with the United States, and give workers the freedom to opt out of the private pensions system, among other actions promised by García during his electoral campaign.

With the first anniversary of his term of office only 16 days away, thousands of Peruvians are calling García to account. Workers and social organisations crowded the streets and plazas of Lima on Wednesday, while strong protests also took place in the southern regions of Cusco, Arequipa, Puno, Tacna and Moquegua.

In an attempt to restore order, the government has deployed more than 15,000 police throughout the country, and has authorised the armed forces to intervene to prevent protesters from taking control of public buildings.

The first victim of the escalating protests was a 13-year-old girl who was killed during clashes between police and teachers in the southern Andean region of Apurímac.

In a jungle area in the central Andean region of Junín, farmer Alcides Huamaní Rivero was shot to death by the owner of a store where weapons were sold. The owner was trying to prevent a group of protesters from entering his shop. The government Ombudsman’s Office reported that eight other people were wounded in the incident.

A teacher died Wednesday night in the Lima hospital that admitted her last Friday. She had been beaten by police, according to spokespersons for the striking teachers.

Teachers have been on strike for better pay and in opposition to reforms affecting their education and careers.

In the context of the social uprising, about 5,000 strikers occupied the international Manco Cápac airport in Juliaca on Wednesday. They set fire to furniture, office equipment and local workers’ houses, in spite of the presence of nearly 300 police who attempted to contain the protesters.

In the central Andean region of Ayacucho, the governor of Huanta province, Erick Montero, was held hostage for five hours by members of the Regional Defence Front (FDR).

The strikers demanded an apology from Montero for President García’s remarks, two days earlier, in which he had said that the striking teachers were “resentful, fault-finding parasites” who didn’t want to go and teach their classes.

Teachers belonging to the Unified Trade Union of Education Workers of Peru (SUTEP) went on strike in public schools to protest the approval of a law on teachers’ education, which the government argues will improve education, but teachers see as “privatising” it.

The law lays down new standards which will affect the professional lives of teachers and professors.

In a surprise move, Parliament passed the controversial law Wednesday without the expected second round of voting, and was immediately enacted by the national government.

SUTEP leaders said this behaviour was “authoritarian and anti-democratic.”

“What we are seeing is a movement that is socially and regionally highly diverse, with the common factor that everyone wants to get back what was taken from them in the last 20 years, particularly under Alberto Fujimori’s government in the 1990s,” political analyst Carlos Reyna, a professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, told IPS.

In this expert’s view, during the Fujimori regime (1990-2000) Peruvian workers lost “much of their buying power” as well as labour rights, owing to the free-market economic model that was applied.

Peru’s regions also had certain development incentives cut back, said Reyna, because power was centralised in Lima.

“Now that there is more political openness and economic growth, and the ‘dirty war’ and terrorism have ended, people have decided that this is the right time and environment to claim what is theirs,” Reyna said. The Fujimori administration is alleged to have carried out systematic human rights violations in the fight against leftwing guerrillas, who have now all but disappeared.

However, President García has chosen to minimise the protests by denying the social upheaval facing the country and blaming the strikes on “a tiny group.”

The same attitude was expressed by Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro on Wednesday afternoon, when he said that the protests were being infiltrated by “ex-Senderistas (former members of the Maoist guerrilla organisation Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path) who create confusion.”

The fact remains that the strikes are continuing, and in the teachers’ case there is no end in sight. Construction workers, regarded as the most radical trade unionists in the country, are also continuing their protests, and so is a large proportion of the farming sector.

At least four million out of the country’s seven million campesinos (peasant farmers) stopped work Wednesday and Thursday and set up roadblocks on highways, mainly in the central and southern Andean regions, the president of the National Agrarian Confederation (CNA), Antolín Huáscar, told IPS.

Also adhering to the 48-hour farmers’ strike were producers of coca, a crop used for traditional cultural purposes, but also controversial because it is the raw material for cocaine.

“We oppose the government’s policy of continuing to shower privileges on private investors while turning its back on the claims of thousands of campesinos. We are still being ignored, despite countless meetings which have produced no results,” Huáscar said.

The farmers are focusing their demands on four points: rejection of the free trade agreement signed with the United States, and of mining concessions located at the headwaters of river basins, which endanger the water they use for irrigation; declaring a state of emergency in the agrarian sector, and demanding that a Constituent Assembly be convened so that Peruvians may “effectively recover their rights.”

The agrarian problem is linked with socio-environmental conflicts centred on the mining projects, since most of the mines are close to agricultural land and the campesinos fear the possible contamination of the rivers that provide water for irrigation.

Social conflicts in Peru have increased in number since the García administration has prioritised mining activity, on the premise that mining accounts for 60 percent of the country’s exports and contributes 26 percent of the state’s total tax revenue.

According to a report by the Ombudsman’s Office, there are currently 75 social conflicts in the country, 35 of which remain active. Four percent of them are due to socio-environmental causes.

“This neoliberal (free-market) economic regime is exhausted. As long as it remains in place, more conflicts will occur,” said Reyna, who pointed out that 48 percent of Peru’s 27 million people are still below the poverty line, although the gross domestic product grew by 7.5 percent between January and April this year.

“We are seeing a flood of demands that have been accumulating for a long time because the government has been incapable of providing an adequate and timely response, and because it has preferred to centralise power instead of giving the regions freedom to act,” said analyst Eduardo Ballón, of the non-governmental group Propuesta Ciudadana (Citizen’s Proposal).

Reyna and Ballón both agree that President García is handling the conflicts in an “arrogant manner,” and taking measures that border “on the authoritarian” and display “indifference to the real problems of the country.” Speaking on Wednesday, the president again said that the demonstrators were “radical, suicidal and crazy.” (END/2007)


Diaz offends Peruvians

June 24, 2007

Actress Cameron Diaz laughs as photographers take her picture while she tours the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu near Cuzco, Peru on Friday. Diaz has inadvertently offended Peruvians by sporting a bag with one of Mao Zedong’s favourite political slogans. (Karel Navarro / AP)
By The Associated Press

AGUAS CALIENTES, Peru (AP) — Actress Cameron Diaz appears to have committed a major fashion crime in Peru.

The voice of Princess Fiona in the animated Shrek films may have inadvertently offended Peruvians who suffered decades of violence from a Maoist guerrilla insurgency by touring here Friday with a bag emblazoned with one of Mao Zedong’s favourite political slogans.

While exploring the Inca city of Machu Picchu high in Peru’s Andes, Diaz wore over her shoulder an olive green messenger bag emblazoned with a red star and the words “Serve the People” printed in Chinese on the flap, perhaps Chinese Communist leader Mao’s most famous political slogan.

While the bags are marketed as trendy fashion accessories in some world capitals, the phrase has particular resonance in Peru, where the Maoist Shining Path insurgency brought Peru to edge of chaos in the 1980s and early 1990s with a campaign of massacres, assassinations and bombings.

Nearly 70,000 people were killed during the insurgency.

A prominent Peruvian human rights activist said the star of There’s Something About Mary should have been a little more aware of local sensitivities when picking her accessories.

“It alludes to a concept that did so much damage to Peru, that brought about so many victims,” said Pablo Rojas about the bag’s slogan.

“I don’t think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology” did so much damage.

Chronicle Herald

Criminal Fujimori placed in house arrest in Chile

June 11, 2007

Fujimori under house arrest

SANTIAGO (Chile): A Chilean judge ordered former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori back under house arrest on Friday, a day after a prosecutor recommended his extradition to face charges of human rights abuses and corruption in his home country.

Criminal Fujimoru who directed the murders of thousands of Maoists in Peru

The ruling was a response to a request from Peru, which warned that Fujimori is a flight risk because of “the seriousness of the charges” against him, according to the press office of Chile’s Supreme Court.

Peru wants to try the 68-year-old Fujimori on charges including bribery, misuse of government funds and sanctioning death squad killings during his decade-long rule that ended in 2000.

Fujimori spent five years in exile in Japan after fleeing Peru as his decade-long government collapsed under a corruption scandal. But he flew to Chile on Nov. 6, 2005, as part of an apparent bid to launch a political comeback in neighboring Peru.

Upon arriving in Chile, however, he was placed under house arrest and held for six months. He was freed last year on the condition he not leave Chile.

Judge Urbano Marin’s order that Fujimori be once again placed under house arrest was expected to take effect later Friday. The court was notifying Fujimori of the ruling.

On Thursday, a Supreme Court prosecutor issued a report that recommended the former Peruvian leader be extradited to his homeland to face the charges. The nonbinding recommendation must still be ruled on by the judge, a process that could take several months.

But a lawyer representing Peru in Chile warned the report might cause Fujimori to try to flee Chile.

Fujimori has maintained his innocence and denies he is a flight risk.

The Hindu

Shining Path Founder to wed

May 25, 2007

A cellblock wedding is reportedly in the works for the founder of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla movement.

Abimael Guzman proposed marriage last fall and will wed his second-in-command Elena Iparraguirre on an unknown date, Iparraguirre told Caretas magazine this week. The longtime lovers are serving life sentences for terrorism in separate prisons.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Guzman, 72, inspired a cult-like obedience among his Maoist guerrilla insurgency which grew to 10,000 armed fighters.

Iparraguirre, 59, who used the nom de guerre Commander Miriam, expressed no regret about launching an armed struggle aimed at seizing power from the white elite.

“We made errors, but the revolution was worth it because the Peruvian state was garbage,” she said.

The Shining Path faded after Guzman’s capture in 1992. But rebel factions continue to operate in the coca-growing jungle region.

Iparraguirre did not say when the two might wed, though apparently Peruvian law does not prohibit the marriage and would, according to Caretas, allow them six conjugal visits a year.


Peruvian police forces capture Shining Path Leader

April 19, 2007

(JP-wb) — Peruvian anti-terrorism agents in the northern Peruvian city of Chiclayo on Tuesday captured Armando Crisanto Asencio (37), a long-time member of the maoist insurgency group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). Judicial authorities accuse him of participating in a series of attacks, among them an ambush of a police patrol near Piura in 1993 in which 19 police officers and one civilian were killed.