The Amazon
Madre de Dios

Mine ponds amplify mercury risks in Peru’s Amazon

The proliferation of pits and ponds created in recent years by miners dredging for small deposits of alluvial gold in Peru’s Amazon has dramatically altered the landscape and increased the risk of mercury exposure for indigenous communities and wildlife, a new study shows. The study found a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape in heavily mined watersheds since 1985. These formerly forested landscapes are now dotted by these small lakes, which provide low-oxygen conditions in which submerged mercury—a toxic leftover from the mining process—can be converted by microbial activity into an even more toxic form of the element, called methylmercury. The miners use mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to separate ore from soil and sediments, often without adequate safety precautions. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is believed to be the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions. (Photo via EurekaAlert!)

The Andes
Ica

Farmworker protests paralyze southern Peru

Hundreds of striking farmworkers are blocking the Panamerican highway through southern Peru, demanding revocation of a decree extending an anti-labor agricultural reform law that was supposed to sunset this year. The protests have prompted the central government to send a dialogue team from Lima to Ica region, but the farmworkers have refused dismantle the roadblocks, insisting on a face-to-face meeting with Agriculture Minister Federico Tenorio. At issue is the Law for Agrarian Promotion—dubbed the Chlimper Law for its author, José Chlimper, who served as agriculture minister under the authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. (Photo via Expreso)

The Andes
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)

The Amazon
peru oil spill

Hundreds of oil spills in Peru rainforest since 2000

Peru’s National Coordinator for Human Rights (CNDDHH) and Oxfam Peru have issued a report finding that there have been hundreds of oil spills linked to the NorPeruano Pipelineover the past 20 years. Entitled “La Sombra del PetrĂłleo” (“The Shadow of Oil“), the report counted 474 oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon between 2000 and 2019, impacting at least 41 indigenous communities. These spills occurred along the NorPeruano Pipeline and in several associated oil blocs. The report also determined that 65% of these spills were caused by the corrosion of the pipeline and operational failures. “After every spill, it was said that the responsibility was with the indigenous communities, but there was no evidence that this was the case,” said Miguel LĂ©vano, coordinator of a CNDDHH subcommittee on oil spills. “It did not make sense, since they are the people being affected.” (Image via Oxfam Peru)

The Andes
paro

Peru: high court rules ‘social protest’ protected

In a decision made very timely amid new mobilizations against oil and mineral operations on peasant and indigenous lands, Peru’s high court struck down a provision of the country’s penal code that rights advocates said criminalized the right to “social protest.” The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal voided an amendment to Article 200 of the Penal Code that had been instated under Legislative Decree 1237, issued by then-president Ollanta Humala in September 2015. The decree expanded the definition of “extortion” to apply not only to use of force to gain “economic advantage” but also “advantage of any other nature.” This expanded definition has been used to bring criminal charges against protesters who have blocked roads or occupied oil-fields or mining installations. (Photo: IDL)

The Amazon
yanomami

Amazon indigenous concerns grow over COVID-19

Four months after COVID-19 was first suspected of spreading to indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghereyesus, said at a press conference that the WHO is “deeply concerned” by the pandemic’s impact on native populations. He singled out the recently contacted Nahua people in Peru, six of whom have caught the virus. The OAS has also called on Brazil to protect the Yanomami people, who may have been infected by government health workers. Poverty, malnutrition, and the prevalence of communicable diseases put indigenous people at greater risk from coronavirus. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon
Manuin

Peru: Bagua survivor succumbs to COVID-19

A revered leader of Peru’s AwajĂşn indigenous people, Santiago Manuin Valera, 63, died of COVID-19 at a hospital in the coastal city of Chiclayo. Head apu (traditional chief) of Santa MarĂ­a de Nieva in Amazonas region, Manuin was gravely wounded in the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police opened fire on indigenous protesters. Hit with eight bullets, he was left for dead. Against all expectations, he recovered—although he had to use crutches or a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He continued to be an outspoken advocate for the territorial rights of the AwajĂşn and other indigenous peoples of rainforest. His daughter, Luz AngĂ©lica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the AwajĂşn communities and across the Peruvian Amazon, with COVID-19 taking a grave toll. “There are many dead,” she said. “We keep vigil over them and we bury them. The government has forgotten us.” (Photo: Andina)

The Andes
Hugo Blanco

Peru: ‘disinfo’ campaign against Hugo Blanco

Supporters of longtime Peruvian social leader Hugo Blanco are protesting what they call a disinformation campaign launched by the military and political right in response to release of a documentary film about his life. The documentary, Hugo Blanco, RĂ­o Profundo, produced by filmmaker Malena MartĂ­nez, won last year’s National Competition for Feature Film Distribution Projects, sponsored by Peru’s Ministry of Culture. This has prompted a group of current and former generals and admirals of the armed forces to issue a joint statement accusing the Culture Ministry of helping to disseminate a film that glorifies “extreme terrorist violence.” The statement falsely implies that Blanco had been involved in the Shining Path movement—which had actually threatened his life for his refusal to support it.

The Amazon
Amazon deaths

COVID-19: Amazon indigenous groups fear the worst

Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The major Amazon River ports of Manaus and Iquitos are among the hardest hit cities in South America, and deaths are already reported from indigenous communities deep in the rainforest, where health services are virtually non-existent. Communities already threatened by wildfires and illegal logging could be pushed to the brink in the coming months. (Photo: InfoRegión)

The Andes
Paradita

Politicians exploit COVID-19 in Peru, Bolivia

Peru’s right-wing opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who had been jailed while corruption charges are pending against her, was released from pre-trial detention, ostensibly on fears she could be exposed to the coronavirus. Of course there has been no general discharge from Peru’s dangerously overcrowded prisons, and anti-corruption prosecutors are protesting her release as “illegitimate.” Ironically, Fujimori’s release comes just as the Peruvian government issued a decree authorizing mining operations to resume in the country. Bolivia has likewise ordered operations to resume at the country’s mines—while interim president Jeanine Añez, who came to power after Evo Morales was ousted last year, has invoked the pandemic to indefinitely postpone new elections. (Photo: Diaro Uno)

Planet Watch
peru exodus

Poor persecuted in COVID-19 police state

In countries across the world, the impoverished are in a grimly paradoxical position: disproportionately impacted both by COVID-19 and by the police-state measures imposed in response to the pandemic—and consequent economic pain. In Lebanon, which had been in the midst of a national uprising before the lockdown, protests have been re-ignited—and with far greater anger. In Venezuela and Argentina, harshly overcrowded prisons have exploded into uprisings over emergency restrictions that leave inmates incommunicado. As in India, stranded migrant laborers line the highways in Peru, defying lockdown orders that have left them destitute, far from home and without employment. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warns that “the public health emergency risks becoming a human rights disaster, with negative effects that will long outlast the pandemic itself.” (Photo: RebeliĂłn)

Watching the Shadows
estado de emergencia

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism II

In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming “total” executive power and threatening to “adjourn” Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to “normality,” it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state. Yet at this grim moment for humanity, there are utopian as well as apocalyptic potentialities. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Peruvian Ministry of Defense via Flickr)