Cuzco

Peru: Cuzco unrest over airport plan

Protesters blocked the train line to the Inca archaeological site of Machu Picchu, stranding thousands of tourists during a 48-hour paro (civil strike) by residents of Peru's Cuzco region. British-owned PeruRail company announced that service was suspended July 13-4 because of the blockades. At issue is a planned new airport for the Cuzco area, that was suspended in March due to controversies surrounding the construction contract. The airport—slated for Chinchero Valley, to the north of Cuzco's capital in neighboring Urubamba province—has now been pushed back until 2020. Local residents were eager for the region's first intercontinental airport to boost tourism revenues, and as a symbol of autonomy from Lima. Constantino Sallo, president of the Defense Front for the Interests of Chinchero District, demanded the government set a timetable of between 90 and 120 days to break ground on the project.

Peru: mass mobilization against Fujimori pardon

Thousands marched in Lima on July 7 to demand that Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski not pardon the country’s former strongman Alberto Fujimori, now serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations. Kuczynski pledged on the campaign trail last year that there would be no pardon, helping him win a narrow victory against the ex-dictator's daughter, Keiko Fujimori. But last month Kuczynski broached a potential pardon for Fujimori, now 78, for ostensible health reasons. Interestingly, the move came as his finance minister Alfredo Thorne was ousted by Congress, dominated by Fujimori supporters.

Peru: Amazon highway at issue in Toledo scandal

Peru's prosecutor general Pablo Sánchez announced Feb. 7 that he is seeking the arrest of former president Alejandro Toledo on charges of laundering assets and influence trafficking. Prosecutors opened a formal investigation this week into allegations that Toledo took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, with investigators raiding his home in Lima on Feb 4 and carting off boxes full of documents. Sánchez is now asking a judge to approve 10 months of "preventative detention" for Toledo while the case is under investigation. Toledo is currently believed to be in Paris, where he arrived for an OECD conference last week, and Sánchez argues that he poses a flight risk. Toledo is said to have received the money, laundered through offshore accounts, in exchange for giving the firm approval to complete a highway connecting Brazil with the Peruvian coast in 2006.

APEC summit: Peru moves closer to China

During the Asia-Pacific Cooperation Forum (APEC) summit in Lima, protesters took to the streets to oppose the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal—just as it appears to be on the rocks with the election of Donald Trump. But as the summit closed, China's President Xi Jinping and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed a series of bilateral agreements to advance "free trade" between the two countries and cooperation in the mineral and resource sectors. Xi especially plugged the Chinese-backed mega-project to build a transcontinental railway through the Amazon basin, and praised Peru for its ground-breaking 2010 free trade agreement with China. "Peru was the first Latin American country to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with China. It's leading the region on cooperation with China," Xi said through an interpreter in a speech before Peru's Congress. 

Peru: heir to Tupac Amaru II comes forward

Commemorations were held in Cuzco, Peru, marking 236 years since claimant to the Inca throne Túpac Amaru II launched his indigenous uprising on Nov. 4, 1780. The ceremony, at the highland city's iconic Túpac Amaru Plaza, was attended by the fabled leader's direct descendant, Pedro Noguera Prada, who came from his home in France for the event. Loaning credence to the claim of royal Inca descent, Noguera asserted that contrary to most historical accounts, his ancestor's given name was not José Gabriel Condocarqui but José Gabriel Túpac Amaru Noguera. He asserted that the leader's 1760 marriage certificate, from when he wedded his later co-revolutionist Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua, remains on file in Canchis municipality, and shows this correct name.

Peru: privatization of archaeological sites seen

Public sector workers in Cuzco, Peru, held a rally in the historic city Sept. 30 to protest plans by the national government to allow private administration of cultural and archaeological sites. The Cuzco regional government, whose territory includes such famous sites as Machu Picchu, Saqsaywaman and Ollantaytambo, has already announced its refusal to comply with the new policy. The national Culture Minister Diana Álvarez-Calderón says President Ollanta Humala's new Legislative Decree 1198 does not affect the fundamental nature of state properties but would help attract capital "in order to transform them into a point of development in its area of influence." She emphasized that many sites are currently unprotected and vulnerable to artifact thieves and traffickers, and environmental erosion. But Wilfredo Álvarez, leader of the Cuzco Departamental Workers Federation (FDTC), warned, "If the private sector administrates the archaeological centers, it will bring income for millionaries" rather than Peru's people. He said the FDTC would give Humala a "prudent" period to revoke the decree before undertaking an "indefinite" strike. (La Republica, Oct. 1; Peru This Week, El Comercio, Sept. 29; Andina, Sept. 28; La Republica, Sept. 27)

Peru: rural mayor killed in jungle unrest

On Sept. 6, a confrontation at a protest roadblock in Peru's province of La Convención, Cuzco region, saw a vehicle fall into a canyon of the Rio Vilcanota, leaving two dead, including Rosalío Sánchez, mayor of the pueblo of Kepashiato. In a similar incident four days earlier, a 16-year-old youth was shot dead by National Police troops in a confrontation at a roadblock. The province has been paralyzed by a general strike since Aug. 27, to demand action on several outstanding petitions to the national government, some dating back five years. Demands include construction of a local gas processing plant; the remote jungle valley of La Convención is impacted by the Camisea gas pipeline, yet the price for gas is much higher locally than in Lima and other urban areas of the country. The Central Struggle Committee of La Convención is also demanding an investigation of local mayors and officials who they say have embezzled monies from the pipeline "canon," compensation funds to local communities for development of the project in their area. Some 1,500 National Police troops have been mobilized to the valley. (La República, Lima, Sept. 8; El Pais, Spain, Sept. 6)

Peru: deadly repression of pipeline protests

The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sept. 2 issued a statement expressing "concern" about the "disproportionate use of force" against indigenous protesters in Peru. (Celendin Libre, AIDESEP, Sept. 2) The statement came the same day that a 16-year-old protester, Jhapet Claysont Huilca Pereira, was shot dead by National Police troops at Santa Teresa village in the Valley of La Convención, Cuzco region, during a protest against construction of the Gasoducto Sur Peruano through local lands. Protesters were blocking to road leading to the tourist attraction of Machu Picchu, charging corruption in the process by which the new gas duct gained a right-of-way through their lands. The parents of the fallen youth are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Daniel Urresti Elera. Lawmaker Verónika Mendoza has also called on Urresti to give a full accounting of the incident, saying, "It is unacceptable that firearms are used in dealing with social conflicts." (La República, Sept. 4 La RepúblicaCelendin LibreCelendin Libre, Sept. 3)