Proclaiming that "change is coming," Pedro Castillo, a left-populist political outsider and former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru's new president on July 28—the bicentennial of the country's independence from Spain. The following day, a second symbolic inauguration ceremony was held at the Battlefield of Ayacucho, site of the 1824 battle that secured Peru's independence and put an end of Spanish colonialism in South America. (TeleSur, Reuters)
One week after Peru's close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, more than enough to throw the race in her favor. On June 11, the JNE said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which had passed two days earlier. However, it reversed this decision hours later, in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted "coup d'etat." (Peru21, June 12; DW, June 11; BBC Mundo, June 10)
Hundreds marched on Peru's Congress building June 5, in a rally that ended in clashes with the riot police in Lima's central Plaza San Martín, and a police car set on fire. The "Shut Down Congress" (Cierren el Congreso) mobilization was called to protest both economic austerity and official corruption, and came amid new revelations of vote-buying. It was the second such march since May 31, which saw a similar mobilization in downtown Lima. The press has dubbed the protest wave the "gasolinazo," as the high price of petrol (despite depressed global oil prices) is a key grievance.
An international arbitration body, having ruled for Peru in a case brought by a US mineral interest under terms of the Free Trade Agreement, is now denying Lima recovery of its legal costs. New York-based Renco Group Inc brought the case before the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) in 2011, charging Lima with violating investment protection provisions of the FTA, formally known as the US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. At issue was Lima's demand that Renco's affiliate Doe Run Peru clean up decades of toxic pollution linked to lead and zinc smelting at its facilty in La Oroya, which Renco said forced the subsidiary into bankruptcy. Renco sought $800 million in compensation. UNCITRAL turned down Renco's claim on jurisdictional grounds in July 2016, but subsequently decided to waive its usual "loser pays" principle, forcing Peru to pay half the legal costs in the case, some $3.8 million. UNCITRAL cited Peru's delay in raising its objections to the tribunal's jurisdiction. Renco says it will file the case again "in a manner that cures the technical legal defect that was the basis for the dismissal." Peru's new President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has pledged to re-open the idled Oroya complex, and says its auction to new owners willing to address its financial and environmental problems will take place in March. (Lexology, Jan. 24; Gestión, Jan. 12; Law360, Nov. 14; Bloomberg, July 18; VOA, July 6)
Residents in of Simón Bolívar, in Peru's Pasco region, clashed with National Police in a highway confrontation Sept. 23, as they were returning from a cross-country march to La Oroya metal-smelting complex in neighboring Junín region. One protester was injured with a blow to the head in the fracas, which apparently began when an officer made a death threat to the passing demonstrators. The marchers intend to continue to Lima, and an officer reportedly told them that if they attempted to advance towards the capital they would "die like dogs." The protesters are demanding health and environmental remediation measures to address contamination of the area's waters with heavy metals from the Oroya complex. (RPP)
Workers at La Oroya on Aug. 13 lifted an "indefinite strike" declared two days earlier, and relaxed their blockades of the highway through central Peru's Junín region. The first day of the strike saw one worker killed by a bullet to the chest and some 60 others injured in clashes with the National Police. The decision to "suspend" the strike was taken after union representatives met in Lima with officials from the Environment and Labor ministries, and National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS), a new body established to address social conflicts. Officials promised union leaders to try find a way to keep the troubled Oroya Metallurgical Complex open. But deadlines are looming: the workers say they will resume their strike if a solution is not found within eight days. Meanwhile, creditors of complex owner Doe Run say if there are no bidders for the smelters and associated Cobriza mine by Aug. 27, the company will go into liquidation. Peru's government rejected worker demands to ease the legal limit on sulfur dioxide emissions for the complex to allow it to re-open.
Two have been killed by National Police and army troops in militant protests against the operations of PlusPetrol at Pichanaki, on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Chanchamayo province of Peru's Junín region. In an action organized by the Environmental Defense Front of Pichanaki, some 500 campesinos and indigenous Asháninka and Nomatsiguenga warriors blocked access roads on Feb. 9 and two days later invaded a military base established to protect the PlusPetrol operations at Lot 108. The protesters are demanding the ouster of PlusPetrol and SIMSA mining company from the territory, saying their demands for dialogue over ecological damage have for years been rebuffed. On Feb. 12, the government finally did agree to send a delegation to meet with the protesters, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Figallo and Energy and Mines Minister Eleodoro Mayorga. The protesters have relaxed their blockades while the talks are underway. (Andina, Feb. 13; TeleSUR, Radio Azul, Puno, Feb. 12; La Republica, El Comercio, Feb. 11; La Republica, Feb. 9)
Creditors of the troubled Doe Run Peru company voted to sell the controversial metal smelting complex at La Oroya, Junín region, to Citibank, Peru's Energy and Mines Ministry (MEM) announced Oct. 11. The New York financial giant will have responsibility for reorganizing the smelter's debts and environmental management plan, as well as those of another scandal-ridden project that will be transferred, the Cobriza gold and copper mine in neighboring Huancavelica region. After three years of being idled by government order over pollution concerns, the decrepit Oroya smelter, which has been dubbed "Peru's Chernobyl," resumed limited operations in July. The local dispute over the issue bitterly divided the local community, pitting campesinos who oppose the smelter against residents employed by Doe Run, who were laid off when the plant was ordered shut. Last year, Doe Run Peru was cited by MEM for resuming construction of a tailings containment area at Cobriza without approval. The mine is still officially halted pending an environmental impact review. (Diario 16, Oct. 13; La Republica, Andina, Oct. 12; MineWeb, July 30; El Comercio, Oct. 18, 2011)