Peru: state of emergency extended in VRAE

On Aug. 1, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala signed a decree extending for another 60 days the state of emergency in the remote jungle area called the VRAE, for the Apurímac-Ene River Valley, where a remnant faction of the Shining Path guerilla movement remains active. However, as we have repeatedly noted, the acronym “VRAE” is becoming an elastic term defined by areas where the Shining Path is active rather than by geography. The state of emergency includes Echarate district, in La Convención province, Cuzco region—in the valley of the Urubamba, the next river basin to the east of the Apurímac-Ene. Similarly, districts of Tayacaja province in Huancavelica region are also affected—in the watershed of the Río Mantaro, to the west of the Apurímac-Ene, and on the edge of the central Andean section of the country. Affected districts in Ayacucho and Junín regions constitute the VRAE “proper”—actually within the Apurímac-Ene watershed. Most of the affected districts have been under a repeatedly extended state of emergency since May 2003, but Echarate only came under the decree in April after guerillas took scores of oil pipeline construction workers hostage.

The VRAE is estimated to produce around 80 tons of cocaine annually, some under the control of the guerilla column, which is believed to be some 500 strong. (InSight Crime, Aug. 2; Correo, RPP, Aug. 1; Andina, April 10)

Controversies related to the “dirty war” on the Shining Path in the ’90s continue to make headlines in Peru. On July 23, the country’s Supreme Court reduced the sentences of members of the Grupo Colina death squad—with critics immediately raising the possibility that former president Alberto Fujimori and his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos could be released from prison. Montesinos, who was among those imprisoned in connection with the Grupo Colina, had his sentence reduced from 25 to 20 years; 15 others linked to the death squad received similar reductions. The Supreme Court justices said evidence supported charges that Grupo Colina had committed “human rights violations,” but that these abuses fell short of “crimes against humanity.” Fujimori’s lawyer, César Nakazaki, said that the ruling could strengthen Fujimori’s appeal of his own 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity. (Latin America News Dispatch, July 24)

President Humala announced the next day that the state prosecutor’s office to appeal the Supreme Court ruling. His newly appointed cabinet chief, Juan Jiménez—who was still minister of justice when the decision was announced—described it as a “new dark episode in Peruvian justice.” Salomón Lerner Febres, who presided Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, called the ruling  “absolutely arbitrary,” and that it “discredits the Peruvian justice system” in the eyes of the international community. (Peruvian Times, July 24)