from Weekly News Update on the Americas


In the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 1, some 3,000 to 6,000 residents of campesino communities in northern Peru seized control of the Henry Hills mining camp, owned by the mining company Majaz in El Tambo, Huancabamba province. The campesinos came from Ayabaca and Huacabamba (Piura region) and Paicapampa and San Ignacio (in Jaen province, Cajamarca). Many of them are members of the rondas, campesino self-defense groups formed during the 1980s to combat Maoist rebels. Armed only with sticks and agricultural tools, and a few old back-loading rifles, they quickly surprised and overpowered the camp’s guards.

But their occupation prompted a violent reaction from police agents of the National Department of Special Operations (DINOES), who arrived to disperse them with AKM semi-automatic rifles and tear gas grenades. In the ensuing clash, campesino Amado Velasco from Jaen was shot to death and four other campesinos wounded by bullets; dozens more campesinos were injured by rifle butts or tear gas grenades. Unable to get access to medical attention, one of the wounded campesinos, hit by a bullet in the shoulder, died later on Aug. 1; as of Aug. 4 he remained unidentified at the Piura morgue.

Fourteen police agents were also wounded, including a police captain who shot himself in the leg while a campesino struggled to take away his AKM rifle. Police halted the advance of the campesinos and chased them along narrow trails on the mountainside, 3,000 meters above sea level. Some campesinos are believed to have been thrown–or to have fallen–off the steep cliffs during the pursuit. At least 32 people were confirmed arrested, including a radio journalist; most were apparently released by Aug. 4. The bishop of Chulucanas-Piura, Msgr. Daniel Turley, told RPP Noticias news agency that unofficially there were believed to be seven campesinos dead, 40 wounded and six disappeared, including Carlos Munoz, president of the District Federation of Campesino Self-Defense Groups of Namballe.

The Majaz company, financed by US and British capital, has refused to discuss the conflict with the Defense Fronts of Ayabaca and Huancabamba and the Provincial Federation of Campesino Communities of Ayabaca. The campesinos are demanding the company’s departure from their region, since its operations are destroying local agriculture, water sources and the environment.

More than 4,000 campesinos marched in Huancabamba on Aug. 5 to protest the repression, while others continued to blockade four local roads. The government broke off a dialogue because campesinos threw objects at Energy and Mines deputy minister Romulo Mucho following the first round of talks. On Aug. 8, the campesino organizations plan to set a date for a regional strike to demand the Majaz company’s departure. (Adital-Servindi, Aug. 4; Article by “observador” posted on Colombia Indymedia, Aug. 5; Prensa Latina, Aug. 5; Zafa, Aug. 5; La Republica, Lima, Aug. 6)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 7


On Aug. 11, Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo swore in Fernando Olivera of the Independent Moralizing Front (FIM) as the country’s new foreign minister, replacing Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros, who resigned unexpectedly the night before, allegedly for personal reasons. Some three minutes after Olivera took office, Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero resigned in protest over Olivera’s appointment. Ferrero’s move then forced Toledo to request the resignation of the entire 16-member cabinet, as mandated by Peru’s Constitution. Toledo said later on Aug. 11 in a nationally broadcast address that he would evaluate who would stay and who would leave. (Miami Herald, Aug. 12; AP, Aug. 13)

But on Aug. 13, it was Olivera who was forced to resign, on Toledo’s request. Olivera said he felt betrayed; he insisted that no members of his party would accept future posts in Toledo’s administration, marking the end of the strategic alliance between the FIM and Toledo’s Possible Peru party. (El Nuevo Herald, Aug. 14; AP, Aug. 13)

The week before his appointment, Olivera publicly clashed with several of Toledo’s top ministers when he argued in favor of a regional law expanding legalized coca leaf production in some parts of southern Peru. Peru allows cultivation of about 10,000 hectares of coca, mostly in the Cuzco region, for traditional use. (MH, Aug. 12) Olivera backed away from his position days later, during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, saying that Peru must remain firm in its fight against drug trafficking. (AP, Aug. 13)

Olivera’s crass image and reputation for crude behavior also angered many members of Possible Peru and officials in Peru’s diplomatic service. Olivera, a former member of Congress, previously served as justice minister and most recently as Peru’s ambassador to Spain. But the Lima daily La Republica reports that Olivera never graduated from university and doesn’t speak any language besides Spanish. Alfredo Torres, director of the polling firm Apoyo, Opinion y Mercado, said Olivera “has had many conflicts with a series of politicians and journalists, who present him as an impulsive and aggressive person without the manners expected of a foreign minister.” Recently Olivera made obscene gestures to the press, and injured a reporter’s hand by closing a car door on him.

“I know this is a political appointment, but this will only work if he has support, so I am asking foreign affairs officers for that,” Toledo had said at Olivera’s swearing-in ceremony. (AP, MH, Aug. 12, La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 14) Toledo’s approval rating is around 14%. He is barred by law from running in April 2006 elections and will leave office the following July. (FT, Aug. 11)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 14

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #112


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Sept. 1, 2005

Reprinting permissible with attribution