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Peru News Summary: October 2011
31 October 2011
Vice President Investigated for Corruption
Earlier this month Attorney General José Peláez initiated an investigation into Vice President Omar Chehade following accusations he had used political influence to benefit a private company.
The allegations followed an article by IDL Reporteros, a non-profit investigative outfit, and were subsequently confirmed by recently dismissed police Chief Eduardo Arteta Izarnótegui.
Arteta alleges Chehade sought to influence the outcome of a long-running dispute over the ownership of the Andahuasi sugar refinery in Lima. Though the Wong Group has been majority owner of the plant since 2009, Andahuasi workers, backed by a minority shareholder, have blocked the group from entering its premises.
The former police commander claims that he, Vice President Chehade, his brother Miguel and other police chiefs all discussed the dispute at an informal meeting in a Lima restaurant. According to Arteta, the vice president excused himself from the table while his brother tried to convince the police chiefs to evict the Andahuasi workers and allow the Wongs to take control.
Chehade admits he met with the police officials, but emphatically denies that the eviction was ever discussed. He claims that Arteta made the allegations only as a result of his dismissal earlier this month during a purge of ‘corrupt’ police officers. Of note, the two other police officials present at the meeting, General Raúl Salazar and Abel Gamarra Malpartida, both corroborate the vice president’s version of events.
The above allegations were followed days later by further claims of Chehade’s involvement in influence peddling. TV programme Cuarto Poder reported that Chehade tried to persuade outgoing Transport Minister Enrique Cornejo to grant a large transport contract to Brazilian Firm Andrade Gutiérrez shortly after the elections. As the meeting was brokered by Prime Minister Salomon Lerner Guitis questions were raised over his involvement in any possible wrongdoing.
In response to the accusations, politicians from opposition Fuerza 2011, Concertación Parlamentaria and Alianza por el Gran Cambio parties have called for Chehade to withdraw from an anti-corruption commission formed last month.
Humala Sacks 30 Police Chiefs
Thirty senior police officials were forced into retirement by the government in late October as part of efforts to stamp out corruption in the force.
Two-thirds of Peru’s police commanders were removed, including prominent figures such as counter-narcotics commander General Raúl Becerra.
In recent opinion polls half of respondents stated the police force was the most corrupt institution in the country. Though some element of restructuring was anticipated, its eventual scale surprised many.
A number of those dismissed had faced allegations of corruption. However, at least one of the dismissed commanders claimed he had never been linked to any wrongdoing. The Nation Association of Police Commanders denounced the move, suggesting it was both ill-conceived and politically motivated.
Vice President Omar Chehade dismissed such complaints, declaring no decision had been taken on any officer without first conducting a “rigorous evaluation” of their professional history.
The dismissals were part of wider efforts to restructure the force, which will see total numbers of police officers drop by nearly 30%.
A similar shake-up of the diplomatic service was carried out earlier this month, when fifteen ambassadors were removed from their posts following a reduction in the maximum length of service. Those dismissed are now considering appealing to the Constitutional Court.
Plans for Hydroelectric Project Scrapped
On October 14 the Ministry for Energy and Mining rejected an appeal by Brazilian consortium EGASUR against the cancellation of a hydroelectric power plant in southern Peru.
The £2.5 bn (US$ 4bn) project, planned for the Inambari river in Puno province, had proved highly controversial as it involved the flooding of approximately 150 square miles of territory. Critics feared this would endanger the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and would lead to the displacement of 60 communities living nearby.
The ministry eventually cancelled the project as it deemed EGASUR had not presented the findings of its environmental impact assessment in a public forum.
Olga Cutipa, leader of the local organisation Frente de Defensa de San Gabán, applauded the decision, saying it vindicated community claims that EGASUR had failed to comply with investment legislation.
The firm is able to appeal the decision, though it is not yet known whether it will chose to do so. EGASUR representatives have so far declined to comment on the project’s cancellation.
Renewed Conflict Over Yanacocha Gold Mine
On October 14 around 200 demonstrators from Cajamarca’s Encañada district blocked transport arteries during protests against mining firm Yanacocha. During the blockade, demonstrators were reported to have set fire to several pieces of the firm’s equipment, including a bulldozer and dump trucks.
According to Encañada Mayor Jorge Vásquez the protests relate to a planned expansion of the gold mine, the largest of its kind in Latin America, which would increase strain on nearby water resources.
Though the firm has pledged to create two reservoirs to replace water which would be diverted by the project, locals fear this recycled water would be contaminated. Vásquez reports that such pollution could endanger the livelihoods of many in the area who depend on agriculture and animal husbandry to survive.
As protests began, Yanacocha officials sought to dismiss the unrest as an attempt to pressure the firm into signing an agreement to provide over £50m (US$ 70m) of investment for the community. As such, the company, co-owned by American firm Newmont and Peru’s Buenaventura, declared they would not negotiate while the blockade was in place.
Three days later, and following intervention by the central government, protestors agreed to suspend the blockade and participate in three-way talks with the firm and state officials. Vásquez warned however, that demonstrations would resume if no agreement was reached.
The Yanacocha protests are only the latest example of the ongoing problem of social conflict in Peru. According to a September report from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman there are currently 215 active social conflicts in the country; approximately the same number as when Humala assumed office in July.
Women’s Minister Survives Calls for Resignation
Efforts by opposition parties to force the resignation of Women’s Minister Aida García Naranjo were effectively defeated on October 13.
A motion to censure the minister, proposed by conservative alliances Alianza por el Futuro and Concertación Parlamentaria, was defeated by 54 to 28, with 14 abstentions. Had it been successful it would have obliged García Naranjo to step down from her government post.
Opposition politicians argued that the minister should be dismissed following the deaths of three children - and the hospitalisations of 89 more – after eating contaminated food in Cajamarca late last month.
The food had been provided as part of the government’s National Food Assistance Programme (known by its Spanish language acronym PRONAA) and was later found to contain traces of pesticide.
According to García Naranjo it was not the PRONAA supplies, but rather the containers used locally during preparation, which were contaminated. The government subsequently announced an overhaul of the programme with greater emphasis placed on training local staff and teachers how to prepare food safely.
In late October the government confirmed management of the PRONAA programme would gradually be transferred to the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion under Carolina Trivelli. The newly created ministry will be Humala’s flagship department for social policy.
100 Days of Humala: Policies and Perspectives
10 October 2011
Date: Saturday 29th October
Time: 10:30am - 5pm
Venue: CAFOD Offices, Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JB
The first few months of the new administration have seen President Ollanta Humala retain largely orthodox economic policies, while implementing a series of bold new social policies. Thus far, the reform programme appears to have won support among provincial communities without significantly provoking the ire of the country’s more affluent coastal groups.
But for how long will this situation continue? Will efforts to increase foreign investment lead to elevated conflict, as in recent years, or will the new government prove more able to reconcile the interests of investors with those of local communities? How will the Humala administration set about meeting the various other social and economic challenges the country faces? And how might its foreign and environmental policies differ from those of previous governments?
Discussing the above at this year' annual conference will be:
GUSTAVO GORRITI, renowned investigative journalist and head of IDL Reporteros.*
LORD AVEBURY, PSG president and long-standing human rights advocate.
ROSEMARY THORP CBE, former chair of Oxfam GB and emeritus fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford.
JOHN CRABTREE, research associate at Oxford University’s Latin America Centre.
JESSICA BUDDS, lecturer in environment and development at Reading University.
DIEGO MOYA-OCAMPOS, Peru analyst for IHS Global Insight.
NATALIA SOBREVILLA, head of Hispanic studies at University of Kent.
JAMES COPESTAKE, professor of international development at University of Bath.
Entrance (includes lunch): £6 for members/concessions, £10 for non-members
Entrance fees may be paid on the door. Non-members can offset their entrance fee against PSG membership (standing order only).
To register please e-mail email@example.com or call 0207 263 1016
*Due to visa complications Gustavo will participate via a video-conference.
P/T Research Intern Vacancy
28 September 2011
The Peru Support Group is currently seeking a part-time intern to assist with a variety of research projects in our office in Finsbury Park. The intern will make a real contribution to our organisation and gain valuable experience of working in the third sector.
The role will likely involve:
• Researching and writing articles for our website on issues including human rights, economic development and social conflict.
• Preparatory research for an upcoming publication on the impact of informal gold mining in the country.
• Writing content for an education pack, targeted at university students, on a high-profile torture case.
• Monitoring local media sources and drafting monthly news summaries.
• Other research and administrative tasks as required.
The successful candidate will be educated to at least degree level, have a working knowledge of Spanish and excellent research skills. A demonstrable interest in our campaign areas and / or Latin America is also a prerequisite for this role.
The intern must be able to work, either remotely or from our London office, at least one day per week for a minimum three-month period. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer a salary for this role, but lunch and travel expenses within central London will be reimbursed.
To apply, please send an unedited writing sample (maximum 3,000 words) and CV to firstname.lastname@example.org before 5:30pm on Friday 14th October.
'New Directions in Peruvian Politics' with Javier Diez Canseco
19 September 2011
Date: 14th October 2011
Time: 14:00 - 16:00
Venue: Senate House, Room 102, London, WC1E 7HU
The recent electoral victory of Ollanta Humala's Gana Perú party appears to have signalled a shift in Peru's political direction. Whereas the outgoing administration's support base was largely found amongst the more affluent in the country's capital, Gana Perú gained most of its votes from disaffected groups in the poorer Andean and Amazonian regions.
Since assuming office in July the new government has implemented a series of reforms, including a windfall tax on mining firms and legislation on consultation with indigenous groups, designed to improve the standing of the country's poorest.
The Peru Support Group is proud to announce that JAVIER DIEZ CANSECO, a Gana Perú congressman and long-standing human rights advocate, will be coming to the UK in October to give a talk on the above policy initiatives. During the discussion, kindly hosted by the Institute for the Study of the Americas, Javier will highlight key areas for reform over the next five years and provide an insight into political dynamics within the Humala administration.
About the speaker:
JAVIER DIEZ CANSECO is a Peruvian politician, political analyst, human rights advocate and anti corruption activist. He has been elected to Congress on seven occasions, once serving as the institution's vice-president.
Affected by polio when he was a child, he has extensive experience of working with organisations promoting rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. He was responsible for designing legislation on disability and was chairman of Congress’ Special Studies Commission on Disabilities between 2002 and 2006.
In 2006 he stood as candidate for the presidency with Peru's Socialist Party. He is currently a Congressman for the ruling Gana Perú party.
To register for this event please either contact us at email@example.com or 0207 263 1016. Alternatively, you can register by marking yourself as 'attending' on the Facebook event page.
European NGOs Congratulate Government on Prior Consultation Law
09 September 2011
The Peru Europe Platform, a network of approximately 15 European NGOs that work in Peru, yesterday sent an open letter to Congress and the Humala administration congratulating them on passing the Prior Consultation Law. The letter highlights the importance of this step, which enshrines in law the rights of Peru’s traditionally marginalised indigenous communities. It also urges Congress and the government to ensure the full and rapid implementation of the legislation.
Peru News Summary: August 2011
Peru News 068. 31 August 2011
Congress approves consultation law
On 23 August Congress unanimously approved a Prior Consultation Law (Ley de Consulta Previa), making it compulsory for the state to consult with indigenous groups on developmental and administrative decisions which affect them.
According to the new law, consultation processes will be mandatory for new hydrocarbon or mineral extraction projects as well as for infrastructure projects, such as dam construction. Consultation with indigenous groups will also be required before Congress can approve laws which could affect their rights.
The legislation brings Peru a step closer to complying with its obligations to respect indigenous rights as established by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169. Though Peru ratified the convention in 1993, successive governments have proved reluctant to implement the necessary legislation to ensure the country was compliant.
A congressional attempt to introduce a consultation law last year, for example, was blocked by then president Alan García (2006-2011), who claimed it would allow indigenous communities to obstruct projects which he deemed to be in the national interest.
President Ollanta Humala by contrast, has declared his support for the law, which he is expected to formally approve in early September. Various politicians, civil society groups and NGOs have also backed the legislation, which they hope will help reduce levels of social conflict in the country.
Acting Human Rights Ombudsman, Eduardo Vega, described the move as a “huge step towards the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples” in Peru. AIDESEP - which represents Amazonian indigenous groups - also welcomed the new legislation, though warned of possible challenges during its implementation.
Congress backs new cabinet and mining windfall tax
On 25 August Congress passed a vote of confidence in the new cabinet headed by Prime Minister Salomon Lerner Ghitis, following a speech outlining key reforms for the period 2011-2016.
During Lerner’s first ministerial address to the new Congress he outlined government plans for reducing poverty and social exclusion, improving governance, reforming justice and health institutions, and implementing more progressive tax and welfare systems.
Much of the increased social spending will be financed by a windfall tax on profits earned by mining firms operating in Peru. According to Lerner, the tax will bring the government approximately £675m (US$ 1.1bn) per annum over the next five years, though the size of any given firm’s burden will vary according to their operating profit margins.
The announcement followed two months of extensive consultation with extractive firms to determine an appropriate level of taxation which would not damage their international competitiveness nor deter investment. A number of industry executives have since expressed satisfaction with the final rate, deeming it far more reasonable than they had initially expected. Even companies which benefit from Fujimori-era stability agreements, protecting them from tax increases for approximately 15 years, have agreed to pay the tax on a voluntary basis.
Further to the above initiative, Lerner announced various other specific measures including: the creation of a Ministry for Development and Social Inclusion, a nationwide plan to provide universal education, reforms to agricultural irrigation projects and the creation of a Peruvian national airline. The prime minister also highlighted the government’s commitment to the eradication of child poverty and to ensuring that the rights of all Peruvian citizens are respected. Unlike his predecessors, he did not request executive legislation powers, expressing instead a desire to work together with Congress to implement reforms.
In accordance with constitutional requirements, Lerner’s speech was followed by a vote of confidence in the new cabinet. Of the 123 lawmakers present, 90 voted in favour of the motion, zero voted against and 33 abstained. All 33 abstaining congressmen and women were members of the Fuerza 2011 party, led by defeated presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Government suspends coca eradication
In mid-August Interior Minister Óscar Valdés announced a temporary suspension of US-funded coca eradication operations in Peru while the new government formulates its counternarcotics strategy.
A number of opposition politicians, including former Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi, criticised the move, arguing it essentially gave carte blanche to drug-traffickers and illegal coca growers.
However, Rospigilosi’s sentiments were not echoed by the US or by Peru’s other notable foreign partners. William Ostick, spokesman for the US embassy in Lima, declared the suspension was not of serious concern as it did not represent a permanent shift in Peruvian counternarcotics strategy.
Ricardo Soberón, head of the National Commission for the Development of Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), further highlighted the positive outcomes of similar operational suspensions in Colombia and the US in recent years.
Peru is the second largest coca producer in the world, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with total production approximately only one percent behind Colombia’s. The same agency reports the country’s cocaine production has also increased consistently since 2005.
Massacre victims' remains found
Four graves containing nine sets of human remains were discovered by an archaeological team in northern Peru earlier this month. All nine skulls contained bullet holes; rope and spent casings were also found near the grave site in the Viru Valley.
Investigators believed the remains to be those of nine villagers ‘disappeared’ in May 1992 by paramilitary forces linked to senior officials within the government of former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission members of the Colina Group, the paramilitaries responsible for the killings, later attempted to disguise the massacre as the work of insurgent forces.
Forensic teams have now confirmed four of the bodies to be those of Jesús Noriega Ríos, Federico Coquis Vásquez, Carlos Barrientos Velásquez and Gilmar León Velásquez who all disappeared during the Colina Group raid.
The remaining five victims are believed to be Roberto Barrientos Velásquez, Denis Atilio Castillo Chávez, Pedro Pablo López Gonzáles, Carlos Martín Tarazona More and Jorge Luis Tarazona More.
Authorities have pledged to return the victims’ remains to their families for private burial as soon as forensic teams have confirmed their identities.
In October 2010 members of the Colina Group received prison sentences of between 15 and 25 years for their role in a number of massacres, including that at El Santa.
Constitutional court rejects Fujimori mistrial plea
In April 2009 former president Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25-years imprisonment for ordering security forces to kill civilians and kidnap prominent journalists Gustavo Gorriti and Samuel Dyer during his time in office.
Fujimori had sought to challenge the verdict by arguing that members of the tribunal which convicted him were biased against him, making their ruling invalid.
On 11 August however, the Constitutional Court, the highest in Peru, rejected the plea and declared the tribunal had complied with constitutional regulations at all times.
Kenyi Fujimori, son of the imprisoned president and a Peruvian congressman, announced his father would likely mount several more legal challenges to the verdict in the Constitutional Court.
Fujimori is also reported to be considering filing an appeal before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Commentators note the irony of such a move given that while in office Fujimori sought to withdraw Peru from the court’s jurisdiction.
Last month the Supreme Court rejected Fujimori’s appeal against a 2007 fraud conviction, for which he was sentenced to seven and a half year’s imprisonment. Under Peruvian law all sentences are served concurrently.
Corruption scandal at state housing agency
Allegations of endemic corruption were levelled against Peru’s Banco de Materiales (BANMAT) this month after press investigations revealed thousands of key financial files had disappeared.
The details of more than 5,000 payments made by BANMAT, the state institution in charge of granting housing credits to impoverished Peruvians, are believed to have disappeared in recent years. The revelations aroused serious suspicion that officials at the institution had collaborated to misappropriate state funds.
This is not the first time that scandal has rocked BANMAT. In 2008 a press investigation revealed that 50 BANMAT officials had granted themselves favourable mortgage terms as part of the state-run Los Alamos housing project.
In response to this month’s allegations the new government dismissed the entire board of directors, all of whom were appointed by former president García. They also launched an official enquiry into the corruption allegations.
Housing Minister René Cornejo subsequently warned that his ministry would also be evaluating whether to dissolve the institution completely. A final decision is expected by late September.
Extraordinary General Meeting and Social
17 August 2011
On Tuesday 6th September 2011 the Peru Support Group (PSG) will be holding an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to vote on constitutional changes which would facilitate our registration as a charitable association. The meeting will be held from 6pm in Jack’s Lounge and Kitchen, near Waterloo and Southwark tube stations, and will be followed by a social event in the same venue.
The PSG is seeking to register as a charity as a means of ensuring our survival over the long-term. Charitable status would enable us to forge closer relationships with partner organisations, provide external recognition that the organisation is competently run, and confer modest financial benefits through schemes such as Gift Aid. The move to apply for charitable status was approved in principle by our members at two previous AGMs.
For the votes on the three proposals detailed below to be valid at least 10% of our members must attend the EGM. Given the importance of this step for the future of our organisation we would like to strongly encourage as many members as possible to attend. If you think you will be able to do so please let us know.
The PSG management committee has three linked proposals:
- the PSG transforms itself into a charity;
- subject to such minor modifications as may be required by the Charity Commission, the new constitution shall be that below (which is based on a template provided by the Charity Commission highlighted to show variations from the template);
- the initial trustees of the charity shall be Eric Reginald Lubbock (4th Baron Avebury), Francis McDonagh, Andrea Maria Steel, and Timothy Lee Thorp.
The constitution below is based on this template provided by the Charity Commission.
An earlier version of the constitution was sent out to all members for comment. In the intervening period, the Charity Commission slightly modified the template and these modifications have been incorporated into the attached. The comments from members were also considered and consequent modifications were made to the constitution.
Note on Proposed Trustees
Eric Reginald Lubbock (4th Baron Avebury): a long standing advocate for human rights, founder of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and member of the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs team. He currently serves as Honorary President of the PSG.
Francis McDonagh: manager of the Andes team at CAFOD until his retirement earlier this month.
Andrea Maria Steel: lecturer in Latin America politics at Kingston University who also works at Amnesty’s International Secretariat in London. She currently serves on the PSG’s management committee.
Timothy Lee Thorp: treasurer of the PSG for over ten years. His professional background before retirement was as a scientist at the Ministry of Defence.
ISA Event: Is American Anthropology returning to fiction?
11 August 2011
Time: 17:00 - 19:30, 22nd September 2011
Speaker: Billie Jean Isbell, Cornell University
Venue : Room G37, Senate House, Ground Floor, London, WC1E 7HU
Outline: Discussion and reading from Finding Cholita, (2009 Univ. of Illinois Press) a fictionalized ethnography set in the Ayacucho region of Peru covering a thirty-year period beginning in the 1970s. It is a story of human tragedy resulting from the region's long history of discrimination, class oppression, and the rise and fall of the communist organization Shining Path. The story is told through the voice of an American anthropologist, Dr. Alice Woodsley, who becomes obsessed with "finding Cholita", her goddaughter, who is known to have joined Shining Path.
For more details please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peru News Summary: July 2011
Peru News 067. 31 July 2011
Humala Assumes Office
On 28 July Ollanta Humala was inaugurated as the 94th president of Peru. During his first speech as president, Humala reiterated campaign pledges to ensure the ‘social inclusion’ of Peru’s poorest groups. To this end, he announced an incremental increase of Peru’s minimum wage, the introduction of public pensions for 65 year olds, a hospital construction programme and a scheme to provide free preschool education in the country’s poorest areas. He also confirmed that part of these new social benefits would be financed by a new windfall tax on extractive firms operating in the country.
The new president was careful to also reassure Peru’s business community and foreign investors by reiterating his commitment to the continuation of the country’s economic model and to existing free trade agreements. Such groups reacted positively to the recent appointment of Luis Miguel Castilla - deputy finance minister under outgoing President Alan García – as Humala’s finance minister and the reappointment of Julio Velarde as head of the central bank.
Though Humala’s inaugural speech contained few surprises, the ceremony itself was not without incident. Members of the political faction allied to Keiko Fujimori, whom Humala narrowly defeated in a run-off vote in early June, disrupted the ceremony with shouts of disapproval when Humala swore to uphold the principles contained in the 1979 constitution (as opposed to those in the 1993 document written by disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, one year after shutting down Congress, sacking Supreme Court judges and dissolving the previous constitution). Shortly after, Fujimorista Congresswoman Martha Chávez alleged that by referring to the 1979 constitution Humala had invalidated his swearing in ceremony and left Peru with ‘no president’. However, this argument was dismissed by Carlos Mesía, head of Peru’s Constitutional Court, who confirmed the legality of the inauguration.
The inauguration was attended by 11 presidents from the region. Breaking with tradition, García chose not to attend, believing he would not be warmly received by members of the new Congress. In his final speech of his first administration (1985 - 1990) García was jeered by congressmen who disapproved of his mishandling of a series of economic, political and security crises.
Transition team identifies political ‘time bombs’
A few days prior to his inauguration, Humala’s transition team announced the results of its policy and performance review of the energy and mining, economy, education, environment, justice, health, transport and communications ministries. They concluded that the García government had left the new administration a series of political ‘time bombs’ in the following areas:
- Energy and mining: The transition team identified as a serious concern the approximately 120 ongoing socio-environmental conflicts bequeathed by the García administration. Their report also stated that 95% of extractive concessions awarded to private individuals had been granted despite inaccurate or misleading information in their applications. The team further reported that parts of the country faced an environmental emergency, with the Amazon region believed to face a particularly large threat from illegal mining and logging activities.
- Justice: The García administration enjoyed little success in recovering public funds embezzled under former President Alberto Fujimori (1990 – 2000). Of a total £40m (US$ 65m) recovered since 2000, less than £500,000 (US$ 815,000) were recovered over the past five years. At the same time, the report highlighted concerns over the roughly 5,000 pardons and amnesties issued by the outgoing government to those convicted of offences including corruption and drug trafficking.
- Transport and communication: The state may shortly be obliged to pay £180m (US$ 300m) to Lima Airport Partners, the private consortium in charge of the expansion of Jorge Chavez International Airport, for breach of contract. The government had committed to relocate residents currently living on the proposed site of the airport, but with the deadline fast approaching little progress has been made.
- Public finances: A dramatic expansion in the size of the public sector over the past five years, during which time an additional 300,000 civil servants were employed, has led to a sharp increase in the government’s wage bill. The transition team reported this will put real strain on public finances over the coming five years (Humala has pledged not to make redundancies). The team also highlighted that Congress has approved the creation of 15 new universities, but has failed to adequately explain how they will be financed. This could lead to conflicts of the type seen at the Universidad Autónoma de Tayacaja in Huancavelica last month.
The new administration has committed to use the transition team’s findings to identify key areas for reform over the coming months.
‘Butcher of the Andes’ extradited from the United States
Telmo Hurtado, dubbed ‘the Butcher of the Andes’, was extradited last week from the US to face human rights charges for his role in the Accomarca massacre in 1985. Hurtado is accused of commanding the military patrol which tortured and killed approximately 70 members of a peasant community, including 23 children, during counter-insurgency operations in southern Peru.
The lawyer for the victims’ relatives, Karim Ninaquispe, claims that Hurtado has already accepted responsibility for the violations during a military investigation in 1985. Though Hurtado was sentenced to six years imprisonment by a military court at this stage, he was convicted only of the relatively minor offence of ‘abuse of authority’. He was not dismissed from the armed forces and was even subsequently promoted to the rank of major.
Under Fujimori, he was granted immunity under amnesty laws which prevented prosecutions of military officers involved in counter-insurgency operations. When the amnesty was repealed in 2002 Hurtado fled to the US, where he later lost a civil case brought by two survivors of the massacre and was ordered to pay £22m (US$ 37m) in damages.
Human rights campaigners hope Hurtado’s trial in Peru, 26 years after the massacre, will provide further insight into military operations under the first administration of Alan García (1985 – 1990). This could potentially lead to advances in investigations against those responsible for other abuses around the same period.
Bear Creek hits back on Puno concession cancellation
Canadian mining firm Bear Creek this month filed an appeal against the Peruvian government’s decision to cancel its Santa Ana project in Puno following recent protests. CEO Andrew Swarthout claims Supreme Decree 032-2011-EM, issued by García on 25 June and which revoked Bear Creek’s concession, was unconstitutional. The firm further argues that:
- It fulfilled all legal and environmental requirements and held all necessary public consultations before starting exploratory operations.
- The project performed to international standards of environmental protection. Any risk of pollution to Lake Titicaca was offset by the fact the project was located in a separate drainage basin.
- The project would contribute nearly £200m (US$330m) in royalties, mining canon and taxes to the central and regional governments.
Under Peruvian legislation the Constitutional Court is able to review any governmental decision that might affect one or more constitutional rights of individuals and legal entities. If legislation is deemed unconstitutional it can subsequently be reversed by the court.
For Bear Creek to regain its concession in Puno it must persuade the court to revoke the above decree as well as a separate measure, passed the same day, which suspended all extractive and exploratory activity in the region for 36 months.
Swarthout declared the firm hopeful that a ‘political solution’ to the dispute could be reached. Within hours of announcing legal action against the government Bear Creek’s share price increased by over 4%.
Supreme Court rejects Fujimori Appeal
On 26 July the Peruvian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the legal team of former President Alberto Fujimori against a 2007 conviction for fraud and embezzlement.
The court upheld the sentence of seven and a half years imprisonment for Fujimori, who had admitted illegally paying his former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos £9m (US $15m) from state funds in November 2000.
Along with co-defendants Carlos Alberto Boloña Behr, Carlos Bergamino Cruz and Luis Federico Salas Guevara Schultz, all former government ministers, the ex-president was ordered to pay the state nearly £675,000 (US$1.1 million) in compensation.
In December 2007 Fujimori was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for ordering an unlawful search of the house of Montesinos’ wife, Trinidad Becerra. In April 2009 he was also sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for a series of human rights violations. Under Peruvian law all sentences are served concurrently.
Fujimori’s defence team has repeatedly petitioned the Constitutional Court to quash the last conviction, arguing that senior judges had already decided on Fujimori’s guilt before the trial started. A final ruling on their submissions is anticipated in the next few months.
Legal Proceedings Against Monterrico Metals Settled
20 July 2011
Legal proceedings against UK-based Monterrico Metals PLC by 33 members of a peasant community in northern Peru were settled earlier today by compensation payments, without admission of liability. The claimants allege torture by the Peruvian police after protesting at Monterrico's Rio Blanco copper mine in Piura in August 2005 (for a video outlining the allegations and background to the case please click here). The settlement means a hearing at the UK High Court, scheduled for October this year, will no longer go ahead. One consequence of this is that the full details of the events of August 2005 are unlikely ever to be established or publicly disclosed. Nevertheless, the Peru Support Group welcomes the payment of compensation to those who allegedly suffered mistreatment.
The Rio Blanco mine has been a key focal point for our organisation since March 2006 when we sponsored a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in which the project was debated. During the meeting, local citizens’ organisations and representatives from Monterrico Metals expressed radically different analyses of both the events of August 2005 and of the wider effects of the firm’s operations on development in Piura. To establish the veracity of their claims, PSG President Lord Avebury suggested we send an independent delegation to the region to visit the sites in question and discuss the project with local organisations and experts. With Monterrico Metals’s assent, the delegation travelled to Piura in October 2006 and its conclusions were subsequently published in our report entitled ‘Mining and Development in Peru, With Special Reference to the Rio Blanco Project, Piura’ (March 2007). We have also supported the legal proceedings subsequent to the report by providing UK law firm Leigh Day, who represented the claimants, with political context to the case, facilitating contact with Peruvian organisations and helping to coordinate translations of witness statements.
Today’s settlement represents a significant achievement for the claimants and communities affected by the events of 2005. However, it has not resolved all the outstanding issues related to the Rio Blanco project. Domestic attempts to prosecute police and private security officers who allegedly committed the abuses are yet to make much headway. Many in Piura also express concern over the likely environmental impact of the Rio Blanco project (now owned by Chinese firm Zijn) when it begins production later this year. As such, further tensions between the local communities and the mine operator cannot be ruled out.
Consequently, the PSG will continue to closely monitor developments around the project in Piura for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we encourage the mine’s new owner to engage in regular, participatory dialogue with the local communities in an effort to minimise the risk of renewed social conflict.