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)

The protesters are also opposing the Santa Teresa II hydroelectric project, to be operated by Luz del Sur, majority-owned by US-based Sempra Energy. The project would see discharge water from the existing Machu Picchu hydro-dam diverted to a new power station, which residents and environmentalists fear will impact local agriculture negatively. "The reduction in groundwater, as a result of building this tunnel, will mean that farming in these areas will be seriously affected," said former environment minister Ricardo Giesecke. Government attempts to open dialogue with protesters have repeatedly broken down with new violence. (RPP, Sept. 5; Peruvian Times, Sept. 9)