Andahuaylas is a province in Peru (in Apurímac region) which seldom gets much coverage in the national Peruvian press, unless something dire happens there. Perhaps the last time it hit the headlines was when Antauro Humala tried to stage a rebellion there against the government of Alejandro Toledo, an attempt for which he is still paying the price in jail.
However, events in Andahualas last week made news when, after six days of protest by locals against a huge hike in electricity prices, the government finally intervened to cancel the increase. The protest threatened to grow, with signs of mobilisation in other parts of Apurímac, in Chincheros, Abancay and elsewhwere.
The company which provides electricity to Andahuaylas is Electro Sur Este, which sought to raise tariffs to consumers by as much as 300%. The company will now have to reimburse those that paid the increased tariff. On March 17, Congress approved unanimously a bill to reduce increased electricity bills in Peru’s poorest regions.
Andahuaylas stands out as being amongst the very poorest of the provinces of Peru. Bordering onto the department of Ayacucho in southern Peru, it has long suffered neglect both from regional and central governments. According to press reports, seven out of ten people living there are on or below the officially-defined poverty line, and nearly four out of ten children under the age of five suffer from symptoms of chronic malnutrition.
Around 80% of households depend on subsistence agriculture to survive. Most households are therefore rural, and only very few homes have running water or sewerage services. Projects to build treatment plants to provide clean water and process sewage have been designed, but the money to fund them has not been forthcoming.
Local people had hoped that the Humala government would take steps to provide for some of their basic needs, but little has been done to do so, except the scrapping of the electricity hike. For many this was just the last straw.