Andean Theater

Peru leaks: oil company rewrote environmental law

Leaked e-mails between the leaders of Peru's Energy & Mines Ministry (MEM) and Environment Ministry (MINAM) reveal that Australia's Karoon Energy International provided "technical support" in the proposed reform of the Hydrocarbon Regulation that would eliminate requirement for an environmental impact study before oil exploration. In one e-mail. MEM chief Eleodoro Mayorga was directly reproached by MINAM head Manuel Pulgar Vidal for bringing Karoon into the process. This was among some 3,500 messages hacked by Anonymous Perú from the account of ex-prime minister René Cornejo, dubbed by the press "Cornejoleaks." Karoon has operations at Bloc 238 in the northern coastal department of Tumbes. (La Republica, Panorama via Celendin Libre, Aug. 12; Peru21, Aug. 11)

Cajamarca: campesino family convicted in retrial

The Penal Court of Celendín, in Peru's Cajamarca region, sentenced three members of the Chaupe family—Jaime Chaupe, Máxima Acuña, Elías Chávez and Isidora Chaupe—to two years and eight months in prison for the crime of land usurpation against the Yanacocha mineral company. The contested land, in Sorochuco district, Celendín province, is located in the influence zone of the contested Conga mega-mine project. The sentence may be suspended, but the defendants were also fined 5,000 soles, approximately $2,000. Yanacocha's lawyers argued that the presence of a company road through the disputed 30-hectare plot indicated the company's prior ownership of it. Mirtha Vásquez, counsel for the Chaupe family, countered that the company had never legally registered its ownership of the plot since purportedly purchasing it in 1996.

Peru: new ops against 'narco-senderistas'

Peru's National Police force has stepped up operations against what the press in the South American nation calls narco-senderistas—surviving remnants of the Shining Path guerilla movement that control cocaine production in two remote pockets of jungle. On July 19, the special Anti-Terrorist Directorate (DIRCOTE) announced the arrest of four members of Shining Path's Huallaga Regional Committee, the command body for the guerilla column in the coca-producing Upper Huallaga Valley. They were arrested at a market stall in the town of Ventanilla (Huánuco region), operated by one of the four, María Bautista Rojas, but DIRCOTE said they were part of the "platoon" led by the guerilla commander Juan Laguna Domínguez AKA "Comrade Piero," with responsibility for several caseríos (hamlets) in the nearby jungle. (El Comercio, July 19)

Bolivia: 'dirty war' fears as Evo seeks third term

Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)

Cajamarca: police attack campesino community

Some dozen National Police troops on July 9 attacked the community of El Lirio in Celendín province of Peru's Cajamarca region—the scene of ongoing protests over the pending Conga gold-mining project. The attack came after El Lirio's comuneros blocked vehicles from the Yanacocha mining company that attempted to enter their lands. Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, and Milton Sánchez, leader of the Celendín Interinstitutional Platform, said the community's children were among those affected. One woman was seriously hurt in the attack, he said. The vehicles were reportedly attempting to bring "gifts" to the local communities, but were backed up by an escort of police troops. (Servindi, July 9)

Venezuela: new attack on indigenous leader

In the latest in a string of violent incidents related to land disputes in Venezuela's western Sierra de Perijá, on June 30 Yukpa indigenous leader Carmen "Anita" Fernández Romero and her son Luis Adolfo were wounded in an attack near her village of Kuse. According to reports, some 50 men armed with rifles and machetes set upon an encampment Fernández Romero and her family had established on the local hacienda El Carmen, which she asserts is on usurped Yukpa traditional lands. Members of the army and Boliviarian National Guard reportedly werre on hand, but did not intervene as the men began beating Fernández Romero and her son. Just four days earlier, another of Fernández Romero's sons, Cristóbal Fernández Fernández, 19, was killed—reportedly in a beating by National Guard troops. He was the third of Fernández Romero's sons to have met a violent death in the past five years. Fernández Romero is currently hospitalized, recovering from her injuries. She has been under an official order of protection since July 2012 following threats against her, but local environmental group Sociedad Homo Et Natura, which supports the Yukpa land struggle, asserts that it is going unenforced. (Entorno Inteligente, La Guarura, Aporrea, July 1; Aporrea, June 24)

Peru: protest new legal assault on environment

Peru's Unity Pact of National Indigenous Organizations on July 7 called on President Ollanta Humala not to enact Bill 3627/2013-PE, approved the previous day by the Congressional Permanent Commission. The Unity Pact said the approval represents "a huge environmental setback and a blow to the democratic rule of law." The statement charged: "Instead of strengthening environmental institutions, management and monitoring, these measures promote extractive activities, reward those who violate the law, reduce fines and relax the environmental standards." The bill's preamble states that it seeks to "simplify procedures and permits for the promotion and revitalization of investment in the Country." Among other measures, it would limit the period for the evaluation of environmental impact studies to 45 days, which the Unity Pact calls an unconstitutional abrogation of the right to public participation. (InfoRegión, July 8; Servindi, July 7; Los Andes, June 29)

Peru: interior minister linked to journalist's murder

Press reports in Peru that judicial authorities have opened an investigation into Interior Minister Daniel Urresti in connection with the murder of a journalist have sparked calls for his resignation. The former army general is reportedly suspected of being "intellectual author" of the slaying of Hugo Bustíos, a writer for Caretas magazine, who was attacked Nov. 24, 1988 by what is presumed to have been a group of soliders in civilian dress at the hamlet of Quinrapa, Huanta district, Ayacucho, where he was covering the war against the Shining Path guerillas. Peru's Press and Society Institute issued a statement calling it "rudely offensive to the values of a democratic state" that Urresti remain at his post while facing a murder probe. The National Association of Journalists also called for Urresti to step down. The National Coordinator of Human Rights added that Urresti's continuation as interior minister, overseeing the country's National Police, "constitutes a grave risk for the security of family members and witnesses" that will be called in the investigation. Urresti, who took office in late June, denies any involvement in the slaying. President Ollanta Humala has stood by him.

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