Madre de Dios
'Genocidal' massacre of protesters in Peru
The prosecutor general's office in Peru, the Fiscalía, on Jan. 10 opened a preliminary investigation into President Dina Boluarte and five of her current and former cabinet members for possible acts of "genocide" in the repression of the mass protests sparked by the ouster of president Pedro Castillo last month. Prosecutor general Patricia Benavides announced that, in addition to Boluarte, her investigation will target Prime Minister Alberto Otárola, Interior Minister Víctor Rojas, and Defense Minister Jorge Chávez. It will also target ex-prime minister Pedro Angulo and ex-interior minister César Cervantes, who lost their positions in a cabinet shake-up amid the unrest. (DW, El Comercio; TRT World)
'Law of Genocide' introduced in Peru
In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country's Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru's trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022-CR the "Law of PIACI Genocide"—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill on Dec. 14 without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds first authority in the matter.
Protests as US troop mission approved for Peru
Peru's Congress last month, at the behest of President Pedro Castillo's government, voted to approve the entry of US military troops for participation in several weeks of anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations. But the Aug. 4 vote was protested by voices within Castillo's own Partido Perú Libre (PPL), with legislator Kelly Portalatino calling it a "sign of submission." (Prensa Latina) A previous such US troop mission in 2015 saw operations in the Valley of the Apurímac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), a key coca cultivation zone. Campesinos of the VRAE Federation of Agrarian Producers (FEPAVRAE) have just announced a region-wide indefinite paro (civil strike) to begin Oct. 5 in protest of ongoing government coca-eradication campaigns. (Sputnik)
Podcast: indigenous survival and the crisis in Peru
In Episode 73 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Thomas Moore, anthropologist, advocate for indigenous cultural survival, and author of the newly released book, Madre de Dios: Refugio de Pueblos Originarios. The remote rainforest region of Madre de Dios in Peru's southern Amazon is a last refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, but is now massively threatened by mining, timber and other resource interests that operate in a semi-legal gray zone in a nexus with criminal networks. Peru has made some progress in complying with international norms on protection of isolated peoples, but these advances stand to be dramatically reversed if far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori comes to power in the pending run-off election. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Mine ponds amplify mercury risks in Peru's Amazon
The proliferation of pits and ponds created in recent years by miners dredging for small deposits of alluvial gold in Peru's Amazon has dramatically altered the landscape and increased the risk of mercury exposure for indigenous communities and wildlife, a new study shows. The study, published in Science Advances Nov. 27, found a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape in heavily mined watersheds since 1985. These formerly forested landscapes are now increasingly dotted by these small lakes, which provide low-oxygen conditions in which submerged mercury—a toxic leftover from the mining process—can be converted by microbial activity into an even more toxic form of the element, called methylmercury, at net rates 5-to-7 times greater than in rivers. The miners use mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to separate ore from soil and sediments, often without adequate safety precautions to protect themselves or the environment. Some of the mercury used by the miners is burned off into the air or spilled into nearby rivers, creating far-reaching environmental and human health risks. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is now believed to be the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions.
Peru: Bagua survivor succumbs to COVID-19
A revered leader of Peru's Awajún indigenous people, Santiago Manuin Valera, 63, died July 1 of COVID-19 at a hospital in the coastal city of Chiclayo. He was first taken from his remote community of Santa María de Nieva in Amazonas region to a hospital in the closest city, Bagua; then transferred over the mountains to Chiclayo as his condition worsened. His daughter, Luz Angélica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the Awajún communities and across the Peruvian Amazon, with COVID-19 taking a grave toll. "There are many dead," she said. "We keep vigil over them and we bury them. The government has forgotten us."
'Development' deal to 'protect' (=destroy) Amazon
The US and Brazil on Sept. 13 announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to "protect biodiversity" by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. At the meeting in Washington where the pact was struck, Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest. So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us." (BBC News, Sept. 14; AFP, Sept. 13)
'Historic' win against illegal mining in Peru
The Superior Court of Justice for Peru's rainforest region of Madre de Dios on March 12 upheld a lower court ruling that nullified mining concessions as well as the titling of agricultural properties and granting of water rights to third parties on the territory of the indigenous community of Tres Islas, without prior consultation with that community. The Regional Government of Madre de Dios (GOREMAD) is ordered to comply with the ruling, as is the National Water Authority (ANA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI). The National Police are called upon to enforce the ruling if necessary. The decision confirms a Dec. 29 ruling by Tambopata Superior Court.
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