Peru's authorities can't seem to put out the last flicker of the Sendero Luminoso insurgency. A generation ago, the Maoist guerillas seemed capable of toppling the government but are now largely confined to a remote pocket of jungle known as the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM). But that happens to be a top coca cultivation zone, affording the insurgency access to funds. Now, authorities claim to have uncovered evidence that the neo-Senderistas are in league with one of the re-organized Colombian cocaine cartels, ironically known as the "Cafeteros" (coffee-producers). "For the first time in an objective and concrete manner, the state can corroborate the link between drug trafficking and terrorism in the VRAEM," Ayacucho regional anti-drug prosecutor Mery Zuzunaga told Cuarto Poder TV.
One was killed at some 200 reported injured when police fired on striking miners blocking a highway near the Shougang Hierro Perú iron mine at Marcona, Nazca province, in Peru's coastal region of Ica on May 25. At least one other worker suffered a bullet wound. Videos aired on media in Peru show workers chanting "no disparen, no disparen" (don't shoot, don't shoot) at the National Police troops. The strike was called by the FNTMMSP union federation to oppose the layoff of more than 80 workers by subcontractor Coopsol. Strikers were also pressing community demands for reduced electricity rates and a potable water project. All 963 workers at the mine took part in the strike, and the company has not brought contract workers to replace them while talks with the FNTMMSP are ongoing. The FNTMMSP on May 18 called a national strike to protest recent government decrees that allow greater use of subcontractors in the mining sector. The FNTMMSP called off the national strike on May 27. (FNTMMSP, May 27; Correo, Revolution News, LAHT, May 25; Reuters, May 18)
The government of Peru on May 23 declared a two-month period of martial law in the southern region of Arequipa where residents are protesting the construction of a copper mine. Martial law allows police to enter homes without search warrants, as well as to break up protests and meetings. Southern Copper Corporation plans to build a copper mine known as Tia Maria for $1.4 billion, which residents strongly feel will contaminate the water and air in the region, and will be detrimental to the local farming economy. Protests have continued for over two months and often turn violent, even after the government approved the company's environmental study last year that claimed the company could operate a clean mine. The government had already sent in over 4,000 police officers and 1,000 soldiers to the area to control the protests, which have resulted in the deaths one police officer and three protesters. José Ramos Carrera, mayor of Punta de Bombon, stated that the martial law declaration "shows is that the government wants the mine to go ahead at all costs."
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on May 9 called upon his National Drug Council to halt the spraying of glyphosate on suspected coca fields following its recent reclassification as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. The decision to put an end to 20 years of the US-backed aerial spraying was applauded by leaders of the FARC guerillas. The spraying has long been opposed by the FARC as well as by Colombia's peasant communities. Santos' announcement came one week after government representatives and FARC leaders met in Havana for the 35th round of ongoing peace talks—this time to focus on justice and restitution for victims of Colombia's long civil war. (Colombia Reports, May 10; Prensa Latina, May 3)
Grupo Mexico's Southern Copper Corp on May 15 announced a 60-day halt in its huge Tia Maria project in southern Peru's Arequipa region following seven weeks of escalating protests in which three people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Company president Oscar Gonzalez said in a statement that the "pause" would let all sides air concerns and "identify solutions." Protesters in Cocachacra, the center of the conflict in Islay province, say they have no intention of backing down from their demand that the $1.4 billion project be canceled. Peru's President Ollanta Humala said canceling the project would expose the country to lawsuits and make it less attractive to investors.
DEA agents in Colombia held sex parties with prostitutes hired by narco-traffickers, according to an investigation by the US Justice Department released March 26. In a series of interviews with DoJ's Office of the Inspector General, former Colombian police officers said that they arranged the parties at government-leased quarters between 2005 and 2008, and also provided protection for the agents' weapons and property during the affairs. The report goes on to detail how several DEA agents were provided money, gifts, and weapons by local drug cartel operatives.
Authorities in Colombia are carrying out their biggest manhunt since the campaign that brought down the legendary Pablo Escobar in 1993. Dario Antonio Usuga AKA "Otoniel" is leader of the Urabeños, a blood-drenched paramilitary network which is said to control much of the cocaine trade in Colombia's northern region of Urabá. The hunt, dubbed the "Siege of Urabá," has mobilized over 2,000 soldiers and National Police troops to the jungles and peasant villages of the northern region. Under a new reward just announced by President Juan Manuel Santos, Otoniel now has a $580,000 price on his head, while his associates "El Galivan," "Nicolas" and "Guagua" each have a price of nearly $200,000.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), on March 24 officially reclassified the herbicide glyphosate as a cancer threat—citing what it called convincing evidence the chemical produces cancer in lab animals and more limited findings that it may cause a form of lymphoma in humans. Monsanto markets glyphosate as Roundup for use in agriculture worldwide, but the reclassification is especially big news in Colombia—where the government has sprayed more than 4 million acres of land in the past two decades to eradicate coca plantations.