The Andes
castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

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peru protester

Peru: after deadly repression, protesters win a round

Following an outburst of angry protest across the country, Peru’s third president in less than a week was sworn in, with a coalition cabinet aimed at bringing the country back from the brink of chaos. The crisis was set off by the impeachment of President MartĂ­n Vizcarra, who had been investigating corruption by the hard-right Fujimorista bloc in Congress—and whose removal was assailed as a “legislative coup.” The new interim president, former Congressional leader Manuel Merino, was perceived as a pawn of the hard right; demonstrators flooded the streets of Lima and other cities after his inauguration. In two days of repression by the National Police, two young protesters were killed, more than 200 injured, and two more listed as “disappeared.” Merino and his cabinet stepped down, leaving the country without a president for nearly 24 hours before Congress finally agreed to approve a replacement. This is Francisco Rafael Sagasti, a first-term congressman representing Lima. Although Sagasti is from the center-right Partido Morado, his installation is being seen as a victory for the protesters. He took office with an homage to the slain demonstrators, praising them for having “marched to defend democracy. (Photo: Revista Ojozurdo)

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Máxima Acuña case against Newmont Mining remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia revived the case by Máxima Acuña Atalaya de Chaupe and her family against the US-based Newmont Mining Company. The family of subsistence farmers from Peru's Cajamarca region sued Newmont in the United States for abuse at the hands of the company's security forces. A lower court had dismissed the case, saying it should be heard in Peru. The Appeals Court reversed that decision, citing Newmont's corruption of local courts there. The suit, Acuna-Atalaya v. Newmont Mining Corp, seeks to stop a pattern of harassment and physical abuse that the Chaupe family say they have suffered at the hands of Newmont personnel, which the family believes is aimed at usurpation of their plot of land at Tragadero Grande. (Photo: EarthRights International)

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Peru: Fujimori pardon revoked; struggle continues

Peru's Supreme Court revoked the pardon of ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori, ordering him back to prison. His supporters in Congress are drafting a law to make the pardon permanent, but this is on dubious constitutional grounds and violates international human rights treaties. Meanwhile, survivors of the Fujimori-era "dirty war" continue to seek justice for the crimes of that period. One campaign is to block right-wing candidate Daniel Urresti, accused in the assassination of journalist Hugo Bustíos, from running for mayor of Lima. (Photo: Diario Uno)

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Peru: water defender acquitted in anti-mine fight

Social leader Milton Sánchez in Peru's Cajamarca region was acquitted of all criminal charges brought by the local subsidiary of Newmont Mining. Prosecutors accused Sánchez of being "author" of the crime of "disturbance" in a protest concerning a land conflict between the company and a campesino family at the community of Tragadero Grande. Campesina Maxima Acuña de Chaupe, whose lands were at issue in the dispute, was cleared of "land usurpation: by Peru's Supreme Court last May. Despite the land disputes and controversies over threatened alpine lakes in the area, Newmont still plans to move ahead with expansion of the massive open-pit mine at Yanacocha. The company just announced that the Sumitomo Corporation has purchased a five-percent stake in the partnership. (Photo: CounterVortex)

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Fujimori to face charges over forced sterilization

Peru's top public prosecutor Luis Landa Burgos ordered that new charges be brought against ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori over the forcible sterilization of thousands of indigenous and peasant women during his time in power in the 1990s. Three of his former ministers are also to face charges, as well as his ex-health director. Landa said he has an archive of testimony from survivors including Inés Condori, an indigenous woman from Cuzco region who was the first to speak out about the forced sterilization she underwent in 1995. Fujimori, already convicted on other rights abuses and corruption charges, was released from prison following a presidential pardon in December. Landa is now evaluating the legality of the pardon in light of new criminal charges that have been brought. (Photo of sterilization survivors in community meeting from La República via CNDH)

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Peruvian left bids farewell to Genaro Ledesma

Genaro Ledesma, a campesino leader and later congressmember who was one of the most respected figures on Peru's political left, died April 1 at the age of 86. He was first elected to Congress in 1963 while imprisoned in connection with peasant protests in his home province of Cerro de Pasco. He was again imprisoned and exiled under later military dictatorships, but returned to Peru with the restoration of democracy in 1979 to help draft the country's new constitution. Ledesma served in the Senate from 1980 to 1990, and continued to work for unity of Peru's democratic left in the polarized years of the Sendero Luminoso insurgency and Alberto Fujimori dictatorship.  (Photo via Facebook)

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Peru: campesina sues Newmont Mining

Peruvian campesina Maxima Acuña de Chaupe and her family are suing Newmont Mining in US federal court, claiming the company used violence and threats to try to evict them from their home to make way for the controversial Conga open-pit gold project. The lawsuit charges Newmont with "instructing, authorizing, aiding and abetting, conspiring in and/or ratifying a violent harassment campaign" against Acuña's family.