PERU: MILITARY REVOLT IN ANDES; PIPELINE PROTESTS IN AMAZON
by Weekly News Update on the Americas
RESERVISTS SEIZE POLICE POST
Just after 4 AM on Jan. 1, Peruvian former army major Antauro Igor Humala Tasso and some 150 of his followers, mainly army reservists, seized a police station in the town of Andahuaylas in the southern Andean department of Apurimac. Despite having few weapons, the reservists quickly overpowered the 16 police agents guarding the post. Humala said the police agents had gotten drunk for New Year's Eve and were caught off guard by the surprise attack. The reservists then took control of the police station and its arsenal: 80 FAL semiautomatic rifles, four shotguns, 29 grenades, 11 pistols, 800 tear gas grenades and 50,000 rounds of ammunition. Five police agents and two of Humala's followers were wounded in the confrontation, according to a police statement. Interior Minister Javier Reategui denied the police agents were drunk when the assault took place, and praised their courage in resisting the attack.
"This is a military protest," Humala told Radioprogramas radio. "We are prepared to give up our weapons and surrender, when and if [President Alejandro] Toledo leaves his post." Toledo's administration has been plagued by a series of corruption scandals involving relatives and members of his cabinet, and polls show his popularity at around 9%. Humala, a leader of the "Etnocacerista" movement--officially called the Peruvian Nationalist Movement (MNP)--accused Toledo of being a corrupt sellout to foreign investors, and demanded an end to inflows of capital from neighboring Chile. (AP, Jan. 1; La Republica, Lima, Jan. 2; Reuters, AFP, Jan 2)
Humala is the brother of Lt. Col. Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso, Peruvian military attache in South Korea, who was forced into early retirement from the army on Dec. 31. On Dec. 30, Ollanta Humala had protested his announced retirement as "unjust"; the same day, Antauro Humala said his brother was forced out of the army for having sent a Dec. 17 letter to new army general commander Luis Alberto Munoz, criticizing him for having links to former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos Torres. Munoz replaced Jose Antonio Graham Ayllon as army general commander in a surprise shakeup of the military high command in mid-December following a power struggle between Graham and Defense Minister Roberto Chiabra over promotions in the ranks. (Chiabra has also been accused of links to Montesinos.)
On Dec. 31, Ollanta Humala announced he would run for president in 2006. In a communique released Jan. 1, Ollanta Humala demanded that Toledo immediately resign, that Vice President David Waisman take over as president in accordance with the Constitution, and that Toledo be put on trial. Ollanta Humala also called on reservists throughout Peru to organize in defense of the public and for the "recovery of our institutions." (LR, Dec. 14-8, Jan. 1, 2)
[On Oct. 29, 2000, the Humala brothers led some 50 followers in a brief military uprising against the government of then-president Alberto Fujimori in the town of Toquepala, in southern Moquegua department. The rebels escaped and went into hiding. Their rebellion was unsuccessful, but the regime was already near collapse; Fujimori fled the country, then resigned on Nov. 19. The Humala brothers and their followers surrendered to the transitional government a month later on Dec. 16 and were pardoned by Congress on Dec. 22.--WNU]
Antauro Humala said on Jan. 1 that his brother would soon return to Peru to resume leadership of the movement. As of Jan. 2, Ollanta Humala was still in Seoul; he told Radioprogramas the military was delaying his departure with administrative matters. (AP, AFP, Jan. 2)
"The Etnocacerista group took as hostages police major Miguel Angel Canga, three commissioned and six non-commissioned officers," the National Police said in a statement. Some 2,000 people gathered outside the Andahuaylas police station in a show of support for the military rebellion. Toledo responded by cutting short his holiday vacation to convene a cabinet meeting and declaring a 30-day state of emergency in Apurimac department. The state of emergency suspends basic constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly; permits authorities to enter homes without search warrants; and allows the president to assign the armed forces to police duties. Cabinet chief Carlos Ferrero claimed the Etnocaceristas are "closely linked" to drug traffickers, and that they had staged the assault on the police station after the police commander there refused to sell them weapons. Reategui, the interior minister, said there would be no dialogue between the government and Humala's forces. (AP, AFP, LR, Jan. 2)
Before dawn on Jan. 2, the rebel reservists attacked a police vehicle heading to the airport on a bridge on the other side of Andahuaylas from the police station. A police captain, a police lieutenant and two police agents died from bullet wounds; three police agents and one Humala follower were wounded. Ollanta Humala said the deaths occurred when state security forces tried to retake a bridge held by the reservists. "They attacked the reservists with guns with silencers--there were four police deaths. We had one man injured--the Red Cross evacuated him," Humala said. Calm had returned to Andahuaylas, according to Humala, but some 800 police agents and 700 troops were massed there. Humala said the hostages were safe and that police had captured seven of his men. Humala claimed more supporters had joined him since the initial assault on the police station, and his group now numbered more than 200, including seven women. Humala said he had posted snipers on the police station roof and had taken over 25 police vehicles. Locals in Andahuaylas donated sacks of potatoes and fruit, and some blocked roads in support, Humala said. Andahuaylas Mayor Julio Huaraca said he had left the town "for safety reasons." (AP, Reuters, Jan. 2)
In a Jan. 1 interview with the Lima daily La Republica, attorney Isaac Humala Nunez, father of the Humala brothers (and president of the MNP in 2000), said the latest rebellion emerged from the results of the Etnocacerista Forum held last Oct. 29, where members discussed the need to confront the "strategic war" started by Chile. (LR, Jan. 2) The term "Etnocacerista" combines a prefix meaning "ethnic"--a reference to the group's indigenous nationalist stance--with the name of Andres Avelino Caceres, a nationalist Peruvian army commander who served during the 1879 war with Chile and led a campaign of guerrilla warfare against Chile after Peru's defeat. Caceres served as president of Peru from 1886 to 1890, and again briefly in 1894. (MNP website, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia; LR, Jan. 2)
In its Nov. 20, 2003 edition, the weekly magazine Caretas implied that Antauro Humala had participated in the execution of campesinos while leading army patrols in Huaunco department in 1986 and 1987. From January 1986 to April 1987, Humala, then a second lieutenant, headed up the army's Antisubversive Battalion 314, based in Acobamba, Huanuco. He later served on similar "anti-subversive" patrols in Santa Rosa, Cuzco and Moquegua.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 2
SIEGE IN ANDAHUAYLAS ENDS
The armed takeover in Andahuaylas ended early on Jan. 4 following the arrest of retired army major Antauro Humala Tasso, leader of the rebellion. Late on Jan. 2, after four police agents and one of his supporters were killed in a confrontation in Andahuaylas, Humala had announced that he would surrender at noon the next day in exchange for a guarantee of safety for his followers. But he later retracted his offer, saying the government had reneged on a deal to withdraw its troops from around the police post.
Instead of surrendering on Jan. 3, Humala walked out of the police post and told some 200 followers he would hold his ground. He also released a hostage police agent. Humala said he respected the wishes of his brother, Ollanta Humala, who had publicly urged a peaceful negotiated solution to the standoff, but that he preferred to listen to his followers, who had urged him not to surrender. Humala and his supporters marched to the town's central plaza, then back to the occupied police station. The government responded by clearing out the streets around the police station and posting snipers on nearby roofs. As Humala's supporters surrounded the police post to prevent an assault, the snipers shot and killed one Humala supporter, reservist David Ortiz, and wounded four others. Humala's supporters responded by seizing five members of the government security forces and beating them up.
Later in the day, as the government enforced a curfew in the town, Humala went with some 50 followers--all unarmed--to negotiate with national police chief Gen. Felix Murazzo and other officials in the Andahuaylas municipal building. Humala and his top deputy, Jorge Villalba, were arrested around 10:30 PM; the government claimed it did not accept Humala's conditions and simply ended the negotiations by arresting him, though sources consulted by the Lima daily La Republica say the arrest was negotiated.
While the negotiations were going on, police freed some 20 hostages who had been held at the police station. Humala will be charged on six counts, including terrorism, illicit association, illegal arms possession, kidnapping and homicide. The fact that Humala was charged under a terrorism statute means the case was transferred to the jurisdiction of anti-terrorism prosecutor Maria del Pilar Malpica Coronado in Lima, and Humala and Villalba were flown there for arraignment on Jan. 4. Public Ministry officials said Andahuaylas provincial prosecutor Edgar Chirinos Apaza, who had already begun an investigation into Humala, declined jurisdiction in the case. If Humala's lawyers challenge the jurisdictional question--either on the grounds that the case should be tried in Andahuaylas or that it should not be tried as a terrorism case--it could take as long as a year before the Supreme Court makes a decision. (LR, Jan. 4, 5; Miami Herald, Jan. 5; BBC, Jan. 4)
Authorities also arrested about 100 of Humala's followers. On Jan. 4 the Second Provincial Criminal Prosecutor's office in Arequipa charged 15 military reservists and civilians, including union leaders, with the crime of attempted rebellion for allegedly participating in the three-day siege. Seven of those charged were arrested; eight remained at large. (MH, LR, Jan. 5)
Followers of Humala's Peruvian Nationalist Movement (MNP) demonstrated on Jan. 2 in the departmental capitals of Tacna and Arequipa as well as in Ilave, in Puno department, all in southern Peru. On Jan. 3 in Arequipa, police used ample quantities of tear gas in an effort to stop some 3,000 MNP supporters from demonstrating in the Plaza de Armas; the chaos shut down the city center and led some 500 tourists to cut short their visits. Seven people were reported arrested. MNP supporters also marched on Jan. 4 in Puno and Tacna in support of Humala's actions. (LR, Jan. 3-5)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 9
AMAZON RESIDENTS BLOCK PIPELINE
On Dec. 13, some 800 indigenous and mestizo residents of the Alto Maranon region of Loreto department in the Peruvian Amazon region blocked access to Petroperu's #5 oil pipeline pumping station between the villages of Saramirisa and Santa Rosa and threatened to shut off the flow of oil to the coast in a protest seeking government attention to local demands. Residents also blocked traffic along the Maranon River. The indigenous residents are members of the Huambisa, Shapra, Cocama and Aguaruna ethnic groups. The protesters kept the pipeline facilities blockaded until Dec. 18, when they reached an agreement with Loreto regional president Robinson Rivadeneyra. Rivadeneyra agreed to facilitate the constitution of Alto Maranon as a province; the opening of a branch of the national bank, Banco de la Nacion, in San Lorenzo; and establishment of a radiophone system in 14 communities. Jose Valera, president of the Front of Defense and Integration of the Upper Amazon (FREDESAM) said he was satisfied with the accords. (LR, Dec. 19; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Dec. 15)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Jan. 17, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution