Protests shut down Peru's largest copper mine

Peru's massive Antamina copper mine had to halt operations Oct. 31 due to protest blockades on an access road by local campesinos. The company, owned by the Australian BHP Billiton and the Swiss Glencore, urged the government "to restore order" and open dialogue with the protesters, stating that as long as "these conditions are not met, we cannot continue to operate." Residents of the local Aquia district (Bolognesi province, Áncash region) charge that Antamina "usurped" campesino lands for the project, which brings no benefit to the community. After a week of blocking the access roads, the campesinos on Nov. 2 agreed to lift the protest following intercession by the Ministry of Energy & Mines. However, they pledged to maintain the blockades until Antamina signs a formal agreement recognizing them as dialogue partners. (MercoPress, Mining.com, Caretas, Reuters

Delays in Peruvian climate change lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide against a European utility over the imminently threatening impacts of climate change in the high Andes has been stalled for months in the evidentiary stage, partially due to the lack of an inter-governmental legal assistance agreement between Germany and Peru. Earlier this year, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, in North Rhine-Westphalia, made a request to the government of Peru to be allowed to inspect the alpine lakes that are the subject of the lawsuit. This is expected to take at least one year to arrange. Meanwhile, signs mount of the glaciers above the lakes becoming destabilized by warming, portending a regional disaster.

Survivors of the 'disappeared' protest in Lima

Thousands have taken to the streets of Lima every night since the Christmas Eve pardon of ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori, to be repeatedly dispersed by the riot police with tear-gas. One TV journalist was injured when he was hit by a fired tear-gas cannister in Lima's downtown Plaza San Martín on Christmas Day. The lead contingent in the marches has often been relatives of those assassinated and "disappeared" under Fujimori's rule, especially victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres—carried out in 1991 and 1992, respectively, by regime-linked death squads against suspected sympathizers of the Shining Path guerilla movement. Marchers hold placards with the faces and names of "disappeared" students, workers and activists from the Fujimori era. (RPP, Dec. 29; Diario Uno, Dec. 26)

Devastating floods expose Peru's climate crisis

Some 70,000 are displaced and at least 70 dead as Peru's heaviest rains in two decades have unleashed flash-floods and landslides across the country. The National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI) is stretched to limit, with several communities left isolated by washed-out roads and bridges. The north coast has been hit the hardest, with the worst impacts in Lambayeque region, where some 40,000 are displaced. But the situation is grim both up and down the coast from there. INDECI is coordinating with the Defense Ministry to establish an "air bridge," bringing aid by helicopter to the stricken coastal cities of Ácash region. At least 15 pueblos outside Chimbote are cut off after the bridge over the Río Lacramarca was wiped out by a huayco (mudslide). Residents are also trapped in Huarmey district, and the town's hospital was destroyed. In all, 20 of Peru's 25 administrative regions are impacted.

Peru: Fujimori sentenced for tabloid bribery

After a trial lasting more than a year, on Jan. 8 a Peruvian court sentenced former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to eight years in prison for embezzlement. The court found that between 1998 and 2000 Fujimori diverted some $43 million from the military to the National Intelligence Service (SIN) in order to pay tabloid dailies to follow the government's editorial line. The colorful tabloids—known in Peru as "diarios chicha" after a popular musical style—supported Fujimori's campaign for reelection in 2000 by characterizing his opponents as communists, homosexuals and spies; some of the papers were actually created by Fujimori's government for the purpose. The former president claimed in court on Dec. 29 that he didn't know about the diversion of the money. In addition to the prison sentence, Fujimori lost his right to hold public office for three years and was ordered to pay a fine of 3 million soles (about US$1 million). (RRP, Peru, Jan. 8; El País , Madrid, Jan. 8, from correspondent)

Peru: prison for regional leader who opposed mine

Gregorio Santos, regional president of Cajamarca in northern Peru, was ordered to turn himself in for "preventative" imprisonment by a local anti-corruption prosecutor on June 17. The prosecutor, Walter Delgado, said Santos is under investigation by Peru's Public Ministry for "illicit association" and bribery, although no details were provided. (La Republica, June 17) The left-wing Santos has been an outspoken opponent of the US-backed Conga mining project in Cajamarca. With Santos' support, the Conga site has for months been occupied by peasant protesters who oppose the mine project. A major mobilization was held at the site on June 5, to commemorate World Environment Day. (Celedín Libre, June 7)

Peru: police 'death squad' leader absolved

A court in Trujillo, Peru, issued a ruling July 23 absolving former National Police colonel Elidio Espinoza and nine troops who served under him in the deaths of four suspected "delinquents" in the coastal city in 2007. Espinoza, who was accused of operating a "death squad" within the National Police, had been sentenced to life in prison by the Public Ministry, the branch of Judicial Power with authority over government officials, for the crimes of kidnapping, homicide, and abuse of authority. After the ruling was issued, Espinoza led his supporters in a public celebration in Trujillo's Plaza de Armas. (Peru21, RPP, July 23)

Archaeologists race tomb-raiders in Peru

The tranquil fishing town of Huarmey on Peru's coast, in Áncash region north of Lima, burst into the headlines this week with the discovery by an archaeological team of a burial chamber in a ruined temple, which yielded 60 sets of human remains, including three queens of the ancient Wari culture, interred along with a trove of gold, silver and brilliantly-painted ceramics. The site, known to locals as El Castillo de Huarmey, has been dubbed the "Temple of the Dead" by the research team, led by Milosz Giersz of Poland's University of Warsaw and Krzysztof Makowski of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. The Wari (Huari) empire ruled the central Andes between 700 and 1000 CE, centuries before the rise of the Incas. (RPP, El Comercio, BBC News, June 28; Peru21, USA Today, June 27) But a close reading of the coverage in Peru's press reveals that the excavations were conducted in secret to keep the site from being looted by huaqueros—the Peruvian word for tomb-raiders who engage in an illegal traffic in pre-Columbian relics. Huaqueros had even dug pozos, or shafts into the structure; the archaeologists were apparently in a race with the tomb-raiders to find the riches-filled chamber. (El Comercio, June 28)

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