Henry Benítez Huamán, 14, died on Aug. 12 from a gunshot wound he received one week earlier when police agents attacked protesters in the town of Kitena, in La Convención province of Peru’s southeastern Cusco region. Another victim, Juan Carlos Aragón Monzón, remained hospitalized in Cusco city with a gunshot wound in his right leg, while 18 people were apparently injured by rubber bullets. The autopsy report on Benítez Huamán showed he was hit by a metal bullet in the chest, disproving initial claims by the police that they only used rubber bullets. The demonstrators were protesting plans by the Camisea LNG consortium to export natural gas.
Cusco governor Marcelo Angulo blamed the leaders of the protest for allegedly manipulating Benítez Huamán into joining the action, but his family said he was returning home for lunch when he was hit and wasn’t involved in the demonstration. According to the boy’s aunt, Luz Benítez, police captain Neils Aróstegui at first denied him medical treatment at the police post. A police doctor treated the boy later, but Benítez Huamán was only taken to a hospital in Cusco city on Aug. 9, after the intervention of Peruvian prime minister Javier Velásquez. The family and leaders of the Federation of Convención Campesinos are demanding an investigation.
Peru’s Association for Human Rights (Aprodeh) charged on Aug. 13 that at least 47 civilians have been killed in protests by the National Police since President Alan García started his second term in 2006. According to Aprodeh, the dead included at least one other minor: nine-month-old Angélica Santiago Rufino was suffocated when her mother tried to protect her from tear gas the police used at a hospital in the Amazonian region of Ucayali. (La Primera, Peru, Aug. 13; Adital, Brazil, Aug. 18)
Recent grassroots protests against the multinational Camisea LNG consortium included general strikes and road blockages in the Cusco, Arequipa and Tacna regions on June 17 and 18. (WW4 Report, June 19)
In other news, on Aug. 18 a Lima court revoked parole for Lori Berenson, a US citizen who had been released from prison in May after serving almost 15 years of a 20-year sentence for collaborating with the rebels of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). In a court appearance on Aug. 15 she noted that she was never involved in any killings or other violent actions. “If my participation contributed to societal violence, I am very sorry for this,” she said. (New York Times, Aug. 19, from correspondent)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 22.
See our last post on Peru.