Peru: VRAE populace rejects “combat zone”

In a joint statement issued Sept. 4, local authorities and social organizations in Peru’s conflicted ApurĂ­mac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) rejected the government’s proposal to declare the area a “combat zone.” Signatories, including the VRAE Federation of Agricultural Producers, called upon the government to seek peace by promoting social justice, saying declaration of a “combat zone” would only hurt badly needed invesment in the remote and rugged area. The statement also expressed solidarity with the families of soldiers kiled in recent Sendero Luminoso attacks in the VRAE. (La Republica, Sept. 4)

Prime Minister Javier Velásquez responded that the government has ruled out declaring a “combat zone,” and would instead use “democratic mechanisms” to combat the Sendero resurgence in the VRAE—but cited as an example “those taken by the Colombian government against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.” (Peru 21, Sept 4) In a statement the folowing day, he pledged a “final liquidation of the remnants of terrorism and narcotraffic.” (RPP, Sept 5)

Declaring a “combat zone,” an idea being pushed by Vice President Luis Giampietri, would give the armed forces special powers in the area. Giampietri’s testimony before Peru’s Congress in favor of the plan was immediately met with harsh rejection by opposition legislators. (Peru 21, Sept. 4) The declaration would also permit forcible relocation of inhabitants to create free-fire zones. VRAE residents are thought to number some 133,000. (La Primera, Sept. 7)

The armed forces successfully completed Sept. 4 a rescue operation for eight soldiers wounded in a Sendero attack at Sinaycocha, JunĂ­n region, in the VRAE. The rescue operation was called off two days earlier when Sendero gunfire brought down one of the two helicopters dispatched in the mission, killing the pilot and co-pilot. (Peru 21, Sept. 4)

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