Andean Theater

Colombia's Ecopetrol to process fracking licenses

The president of Colombia's Ecopetrol, Javier Genaro Gutiérrez, announced Sept. 24 that the state oil company will process licenses for the use of fracking technology. Gutiérrez upheld Texas as an example of successful fracking, saying, "I invite you to see the fracking tower next to a hospital for the elderly" in the US state. In the Ronda Colombia 2014, the country's latest round of auctioning oil leases on public lands, 19 of the 98 bids sold were for the development of fracking sites. In March, a law was passed to expedite the process for allowing "non-conventional" drilling sites. Ecopetrol in a partnership with Canadian-based Talisman Energy acquired the country's two largest natural gas fields from BP in 2010. 

Peru: record coke bust points to Mexican cartels

A record-breaking cocaine bust on Peru's Pacific coast points not only to the country's booming production, but also the increasing role of the Mexican cartels in the Andean narco economy. Peru's Interior Ministry announced the haul in a Sept. 1 statement, saying National Police and DEA agents had uncovered an unprecedented 7.6 metric tons of coke hidden in a shipment of coal at a warehouse in the northern fishing port of Huanchaco, Trujillo region. "This is the largest drug seizure ever in Peru," said Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, speaking at a Lima press conference below a banner reading "Historic Blow to Illegal Drug Trafficking" at the hanger where the shipment had been flown for incineration. "It's historic."

Protest Ollanta Humala in New York City

On Thursday Sept. 25, Peru's President Ollanta Humala will be honored at a $500-per-plate dinner by the free-trade-boosting Americas Society "in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments as president of the Andean country." Sponsors of the event include mineral and oil giants Barrick Gold, Freeport-McMoRan and Pluspetrol. The event comes amid ongoing deadly attacks on indigenous leaders defending their traditional lands in Peru. Local New York activists will be protesting the event with the following demands:

Peru: Newmont behind water authority shake-up?

US-based Newmont Mining is facing a new controversy concerning the pending Conga mega-mine, to be developed by its majority-owned subsidiary in Peru's Cajamarca region. Milton Sánchez, leader of the Interinstitutional Platform of Celendín, charged that the Yanacocha mining company is preparing to start removal of water from Laguna El Perol to an artificial reservoir in order to facilitate turning the site of the lake into an open-pit mine. He further charged that Peru's National Water Authority has changed the director of its local administrative region, VI Marañón, in order to allow this work to move ahead. Sánchez said the new regional director, Carlos Enrique Gastelo Villanueva, was brought in after his predecessor refused to sign off on "relocation" of the lake. Sánchez said his followers are prepared to begin a sit-in at the regional offices of the Water Authority if approval is given for the water transfer. (Celendin Libre, Sept. 11)

Peru: rural mayor killed in jungle unrest

On Sept. 6, a confrontation at a protest roadblock in Peru's province of La Convención, Cuzco region, saw a vehicle fall into a canyon of the Rio Vilcanota, leaving two dead, including Rosalío Sánchez, mayor of the pueblo of Kepashiato. In a similar incident four days earlier, a 16-year-old youth was shot dead by National Police troops in a confrontation at a roadblock. The province has been paralyzed by a general strike since Aug. 27, to demand action on several outstanding petitions to the national government, some dating back five years. Demands include construction of a local gas processing plant; the remote jungle valley of La Convención is impacted by the Camisea gas pipeline, yet the price for gas is much higher locally than in Lima and other urban areas of the country. The Central Struggle Committee of La Convención is also demanding an investigation of local mayors and officials who they say have embezzled monies from the pipeline "canon," compensation funds to local communities for development of the project in their area. Some 1,500 National Police troops have been mobilized to the valley. (La República, Lima, Sept. 8; El Pais, Spain, Sept. 6)

Ecuador: mobilizations for and against Correa

Supporters and opponents of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa took to the streets of Quito by the thousands Sept. 17—at one point clashing with each other, resulting in eight arrests. Authorities claimed several police officers were injured. Correa, who addressed his supporters at Plaza de la Independencia, boasted that the pro-government march was "bigger, much, much bigger." This was contested by organizers of the opposition march, who claimed to have mobilized some 5,000. The opposition rally was called by the Unitary Workers' Front (FUT), the country's principal trade union federation, in alliance with the indigenous organizations CONAIE and Ecuarunari. FUT called the march to oppose Correa's reform of the labor code, which union leaders denounced as a "neoliberal" roll-back of workers' rights. The indigenous groups joined to protest ongoing oil and mineral development.

Colombia: Chocó indigenous leaders assassinated

The president of the Indigenous Organization of Chocó (OICH), Ernelio Pacheco Tunay, was assassinated Sept. 12 at the Embera Dobida indigenous pueblo of Bacal, Alto Baudó municipality, in Colombia's Pacific coastal department of Chocó. Pacheco was detained by armed men while traveling in a boat along the Río Nauca; his body was found nearby several hours later. The following day, Miguel Becheche Zarco, president of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Alto Baudo (ACIAB), was similarly taken by armed men while traveling along the same river; his body was found near the community of La Playita. Local indigenous leaders are pressing authorities for action, and protest that no investigators from the Fiscalía, Colombia's attorney general, have yet arrived in Alto Baudó. The municipality is the scene of ongoing conflict between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Urabeños paramilitary group. Both groups have threatened indigenous leaders for demanding their right to non-involvement in the conflict. On Sept. 16, an ELN communique said the two indigenous leaders had been detained by their fighters under "due process" (sic) and confessed under "interrogation" to being government informants, an implicit admission of responsibility in their deaths. (Radio Caracol, RCN Radio, Sept. 16; communique from indigenous organizations, online at Choco.org, Sept. 15; El Colombiano, El Espectador, Sept. 14)

Anti-Semitic attacks in Bolivia: usual confusion

It has received shamefully little international coverage—or even internal coverage within Bolivia—but has of course been jumped on by the right-wing Jewish press, e.g. Arutz Sheva, Algemeiner‎, Times of Israel. And what little coverage it has received is pretty garbled—both factually and politically. On Sept. 13, a dynamite attack damaged the main Jewish cemetery in La Paz, according to the aforementioned sources—although the Agencia Judía de Noticias places the attack in Cochabamba, probably erroneously. It does appear that Cochabamba's synagogue was attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails in April and July. The American Jewish Committee weighed in on the attacks in the usual problematic terms, emphasizing President Evo Morales' protests of the Gaza bombardment—and compouding this condescension with the insult of getting his name wrong! Wrote Dina Siegel Vann, AJC's director of Latin American affairs: "President Eva [sic!] Morales' hostility towards Israel has encouraged regular attacks against the country's Jewish population in the media and violent attacks on Jewish institutions. This is a very dangerous trend that only the government can and should vigorously turn back and end."

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