Lima: indigenous squatter camp burns

A fire swept through the Cantagallo shanty-town, just across the Río Rímac from downtown Lima, on Nov. 4, leaving some 2,000 residents of the informal settlement facing an uncertain future. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and a child badly injured in the blaze, which authorities say started near a leather workshop that used flammable chemicals. The settlement was established by Shipibo-Konibo indigenous migrants from Ucayali in in Peruvian Amazon in 2001. Lima's conservative Mayor Luis Castañeda is proposing to relocate the community to the Barrios Altos area east of downtown. But community leaders say they will refuse to move, and intend to rebuild where they are.

Delmer Ramírez, vice president of Cantagallo's resident association, told La República that the community considers Barrios Altos dangerous and could face discrimination there. "We don't need charity from the government," he said. "We want to reorganize and rebuild our homes. We're not going to move from Cantagallo. We will resist. In the morning the mayor prepared tents in [Barrios Altos], but we're not going."

Castañeda cancelled plans drawn up by previous mayor Susana Villarán to build a riverside park in Rímac district, which included outlays for relocation of the Shipibo community to Lima's northern district of San Juan de Lurigancho. Castañeda instead used those funds for construction of a controversial tunnel to releive traffic congestion in the downtown area.

Left-wing lawmaker Veronika Mendoza blamed Castañeda for the current impasse, tweeting: "Solidarity with the Shipibo community of Cantagallo. They could have been relocated, it was planned and paid for but Castañeda cancelled everything." (Peru Reports, Nov. 5; Peru21, Comercio, Nov. 4)