The Transportation and Communications Commission of Peru's Congress on June 7 approved Law 1035-2011, introduced by the fujimorista bloc, that would declare the "public necessity and national interest" of a new highway between Puerto Esperanza, Purús province, Ucayali department, and Iñapari, Tahuamanu province, Madre de Dios department—cutting through Alto Purús National Park, and territory believed to shelter isolated or "uncontacted" indigenous bands. Peru's Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP and its Madre de Dios regional affiliate FENAMAD protested that the region's native inhabitants had not been consulted on the measure, and charged that the road would impact the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated peoples. The law now goes to the full Congress for debate. But Verónika Mendoza, leader of the Commission on Andean, Amazonian and Afro-Peruvian Peoples, insisted that her commission should have to sign off on the bill before it goes to the floor as well. (InfoRegión, June 11; La Republica, June 10; AIDESEP, June 7)
UK-based indigenous rights advocacy group Survival International warns that Peru's government has drawn up "secret plans" for a natural gas exploration bloc in the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve, in what it calls a "flagrant violation" of laws that protect "uncontacted" Amazon tribes within such reserves. The existence of the bloc was first revealed in the April 5 edition of the Lima weekly Caretas, in an article about the Camisea gas project in the lowland rainforest of Cuzco region. While the text of the article didn't mention the new bloc, an accompanying map shows a "Fitzcarrald Bloc" lying immediately to the east of the Camisea consortium's Bloc 88. The map doesn't show the reserve, but Bloc 88 already superimposes the western edge of the reserve—to the protests of environmentalists and indigenous advocates. Survival writes that if confirmed, the Fitzcarrald Bloc "will cut the Nahua-Nanti Reserve in half, and put uncontacted tribes' lives in immediate danger."
Peru's Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), which exploded into the news last month when Shining Path guerillas briefly took 36 pipeline construction workers hostage, is the scene of a contest between the local Asháninka indigenous people and economic interests seeking to develop a hydro-electric mega-project in the area, to export power to neighboring Brazil. The proposed 2,200-megawatt Pakitzapango hydroelectric dam would flood much of the basin of the Río Ene, as the Apurímac is known after it enters the Amazonian lowlands. The project would mean relocation of 15 Asháninka communities, numbering some 10,000 inhabitants, and it is conceived as but the first of six dams in the area that together would generate more than 6,500 megawatts under a 2010 agreement signed with Brazil. All told, the five-dam project would displace thousands more people. Brazilian companies Electrobras, Odebrecht, Engevix, Camargo Correa, and the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) are driving the push for the mega-project.
A month after the jungle hostage crisis in Peru—when 36 pipeline construction workers were briefly abducted by Shining Path rebels—facts are starting to emerge about the murky affair, and the revelations have prompted the resignation of two cabinet ministers. Defense Minister Alberto Otarola and Interior Minister Daniel Lozada stepped down May 10, when President Ollanta Humala was on a tour of South Korea and Japan. Both were harshly criticized in the deaths of 10 soldiers and police officers over the last month in the conflicted Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE). The toll just over the past month is already higher than that suffered by the security forces in all of 2011, when nine police officers and soldiers were killed in the VRAE.
Plans by Anglo-French oil and gas company Perenco to exploit oil deposits slated to transform Peru's economy have been slammed as a "1970s-era" project and forecast to cause huge unnecessary environmental damage to the Amazon. "The proposed 200 km long pipeline will have a 25 metre cleared right-of-way, big enough for a superhighway. There’ll be a permanent road along the entire length," says Bill Powers, chief engineer at US consultancy E-Tech International, speaking after the April 4 publication of a report he authored on oil industry best practices. "Perenco is following a 1970s-era project design format that is totally inappropriate for the Peruvian Amazon," says Powers, an expert on Peru. "The company is not proposing to use current technology to reduce impact."
Peru announced April 26 that it will implement its own climate change initiative, in light of the continued absence of an international treaty. While Peru is the source of only some 0.4% of the world's carbon emissions, it may be especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The government says the country is experiencing disturbing climactic changes. "If we don't do something we will have problems with water supplies along the coasts, we know there will be more droughts, more rains," said Mariano Felipe Soldán, , head of the government's strategic planning office. "We are already seeing temperature changes." A glacier on Peru's Huaytapallana peak (Junín region) is half the size it was just 23 years ago. A 2009 World Bank report warned that Andean glaciers could disappear in 20 years if no action is taken to slow climate change.* They are already reduced by 22%, resulting in 12% less fresh water reaching the coast—where the majority of Andean region's people live.
Leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB) announced April 25 that will postpone the start of the Ninth Indigenous March by one day, and change the starting point from the village of Chaparina to the city of Trinidad, departmental capital of Beni, some 275 kilometers to the east—in order to avoid conflict with counter-protesters, who have blocked the highway in order to impede the march. Chaparina was chosen because it was the site of the police repression of last year's similar march, called to halt construction of a highway through Bolivia's northern Amazon region. Supporters of the new highway launched roadblocks at San Ignacio de Moxos, the town closest to Chaparina. CIDOB leader Adolfo Chávez said the decision was taken to avert a confrontation with "our brothers from San Ignacio." Government Minister Carlos Romero meanwhile flew into San Ignacio de Moxos to meet with the counter-protest leaders, and said he had secured an agreement for them to dismantle their blockades. (Erbol, EFE, ANF, April 25)
Peru's Panamericana TV on April 18 broadcast an interview with the leader of the Sendero Luminoso guerillas who last week took hostage some 40 Camisea gas pipeline workers in the lowland rainforest of Cuzco—adding further confusion to the already extremely murky affair. In the interview, Martín Quispe Palomino AKA "Comrade Gabriel" boasts that his forces freed the hostages voluntarily and that the abduction served to lure more government troops into the territory so as to heat up the insurgency. A smiling Comrade Gabriel said: "We asked for a ransom but we knew they [the government] wouldn't pay. We did it so that these hopeless reactionaries would send in the armed forces and we could annihilate them. This was our objective." He added: "Let them militarize the pipeline. We'd have the upper hand and would annihilate the armed forces, right?"