Peru: Aymara protest leader elected regional gov

Aymara leader Walter Aduviri was elected governor of Peru's Puno region Oct. 7—just two days after the country's Supreme Court declared void a seven-year prison term against him for "disturbing public order" during a 2011 protest wave in which he was the principal leader. Aduviri had carried out his campaign from hiding, and only emerged from clandestinity with announcement of the high court ruling. He will now face a new trial on the charges related to the so-called "Aymarazo"—an Aymara uprising against an unpopular mineral development project, which was ultimately suspended. His Mi Casita Movement for Regional Integration and Development won 48% of the vote in the race, ahead of the other candidates. It also took several municipal races in Puno region. (El Comercio, Oct. 12)

Frog die-off ominous sign for Lake Titicaca

Peru's National Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) is investigating the death of some 10,000 frogs whose bodies have been found in the Río Coata, which flows into Lake Titicaca. The alert was sounded by the local Committee Against the Pollution of the Río Coata, which accused the authorities of ignoring the river's severe pollution. Activists brought 100 of the dead frogs to the central square in the regional capital, Puno. Said protest leader Maruja Inquilla: "I've had to bring them the dead frogs. The authorities don't realize how we're living. They have no idea how major the pollution is. The situation is maddening." The committee has long been petitioning for construction of a sewage treatment plant for the river, and also for bringing informal minig camps up the river under control. Last year, arsenic, presumably from unregulated gold-mining in the area, was found to have contaminated several wells in the Coata watershed. The Puno regional health department conducted the study following a campaign by local campesino communities. 

Peru: government ultimatum to illegal miners

Peru's government has issued an "ultimatum" to small-scale artisanal miners in southern Puno region, saying that if they do not remove their dredges and other equipment from the watersheds of the Ramis and Suches rivers (which both flow into Lake Titicaca), they will be dynamited. The warning was made by Daniel Urresti, high commissioner for Formalization and Interdiction of Mining. "We would be grateful if these people abandon the area and take their machinery with them, because when we arrive we are going to conficate it, and those which weigh 20 or 30 tons and are impossible to confiscate, we will detonate," he told RPP radio. He said the operation is set to begin in December. (Terra, Nov. 6)

Peru: deadly attack on family of miner leader

The wife and infant son of a local mining leader were assassinated last week in the community of Pamputa, Coyllurqui district, Cotabambas province, Apurímac region, Peru. The bodies were found Sept. 18 by ​Carmelo Hanco, president of the local Artisenal Miners Association of Los Apus de Chunta, when he returned home from a trip to Abancay, the regional capital, where he had been petitioning authorities for the "formalization" of mining claims. Authorities said the killings took place during a robbery, but Hanco said he suspected the involvement of the Xstrata mining company—which he charged has been pressing for the arrest of independent artisenal miners in the region with an eye towards establishing its own operations. The company has for 10 years operated a giant gold, silver and copper mine at nearby Las Bambas (Chahuahuacho district), above the opposition of both local artisenal miners and campesinos. (Con Nuestro Peru, Sept. 21)

Peru: demands emerge for 'plurinational state'

Vladimiro Huaroc, head of Peru's National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), weighed in on the controversy over the country's new Prior Consultation Law June 14, in comments published in the official newspaper El Peruano. "There are many sectors that want the government to execute these actions as soon as possible, and we do not understand the trouble," he wrote. Seeming to address assertions by President Ollanta Humala that the law should not apply in the country's sierras, Huaroc invoked Peru's responsibilities under ILO Convention 169 and stated, "Probably, there are sectors that are not adequately informed" about the government's responsibilities to indigenous communities. "Prior consultation means informing the population; the Executive must do everything possible so that communities know in detail the economic processes that will be realized." 

Peru: disappearing glacier sounds climate alarm

A new study published in Science finds that a critical glacier in the Peruvian Andes has shrunk to its smallest extent nearly since the end of the last Ice Age. Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson is studying plants that have been recently exposed near Quelccaya Ice Cap, the world's largest tropical ice sheet, located 18,000 feet above sea level (straddling the border of Cuzco and Puno regions). Chemical analysis of plants exposed by melting several years ago showed them to be about 4,700 years old, proving that the ice cap had reached its smallest extent in nearly five millennia. In the new findings, a thousand feet of additional melting has exposed plants that lab analysis shows to be about 6,300 years old. Thompson said this indicates that ice that had accumulated over approximately 1,600 years melted back in no more than 25 years.

Peru: campesino alliance with 'illegal' miners

On Nov. 11, the Second National Congress of Artisanal Miners was held at Juliaca, in Peru's southern region of Puno, presided over by Hernán de la Cruz Enciso, AKA Tankar Rau Rau Amaru, outspoken president of the National Confederation of Artisanal Miners and Small Producers (CONAMI), pledging to launch new road occupations if the government does not rescind decrees mandating the "legalization" of informal mining operations. A surprise guest was Walter Aduviri, leader of the Aymara campesino struggle in Puno, who has led strikes and protests against mining projects. De la Cruz and Aduviri shared a public abrazo (embrace) and hailed the meeting as "a step towards the consolidation of objectives" of their respective movements. De la Cruz said Aduviri "is against big mining and supports small mining." Peru's pro-business website eeé (for Economy & Energy with Ethics [sic]) on reporting the meeting, added: "Peruvians are now notified of this new alliance of terror and violence, between Tankar Rau Rau Amaru (Hernán de la Cruz) and Walter Aduviri."

Peru: mine tailing spill contaminates Río Huallaga

Authorities in Peru said Sept. 1 wastewater laced with heavy metals from a giant zinc mine last week spilled into the Río Huallaga, a major tributary of the Amazon. The supervisory body for investment in energy and mining (Osinergmin) reported that a dam at a tailings containment pond gave way at the Atacocha facility in Chicrín province, Pasco region. The mine, at some 4,000 meters above sea level in the high Andes, is majority-owned by the Brazilian company Votorantim. At least seven kilometers of the river are severely contaminated, according to the National Water Authority, which has dispatched brigades to the scene. Local campesino communities that depend on the water are holding emergency meetings to decide how to react to the disaster. (AP, Sept. 4; Perú21, Sept. 3; RPP, Sept. 1)
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