Peru: protests as US military forces arrive

Without fanfare in either country, some 3,000 US troops are now arriving in Peru for an anti-drug "training mission." The troops embarked, along with several cargo planes, on the USS George Washington Sept. 1—sparking street protests in Lima. Thousands filled downtown Lima chanting slogans against the "Yankee terrorists," and several US flags were burned. Ex-congressman Gustavo Espinoza decried what he called a "military invasion." He suggested that the US had ulterior motives behind the mobilization: "What is looming is a sort of 'sting operation'…designed to enhance the North American presence not only in Peru but in the Americas… The Empire seeks to change the correlation of forces now in place in the region." (HispanTV, Sept. 2; TeleSUR, Sept. 1)

Also pointing to a harder line in the "drug war," Peru's Congress on Aug. 21 approved legislation that allows the country's air force to shoot down small planes suspected of narco-trafficking. The bill was passed unanimously 89-0 by all lawmakers present (out of a total of 130), and was promptly signed into law by President Ollanta Humala. The controversial policy was suspended amid a public outcry in 2001 after a Cessna flying Christian missionaries was accidentally shot down in the northern Amazon near Iquitos, leaving a young missionary and her baby dead. Back then, the US cooperated in the shoot-down program, but this time Washington is said to be quietly opposing a return to the policy. Under the law this time around, military planes will first warn suspected drug flights and order them to land. (AP, Aug. 29; BBC News, Aug. 21)

Cross-post to High Times and Global Ganja Report