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)
A revered leader of Peru’s Awajún 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 María 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 Awajún and other indigenous peoples of rainforest. His daughter, Luz Angélica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the Awajún 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)
A former Salvador military commander, Inocente Montano, went on trial in Spain, accused of ordering the murder of six Spanish Jesuit priests in 1989. Two Salvadoran women were also killed in the incident. Montano was formerly held in the US, but was extradited to Spain in 2017. Ex-colonel Montano was vice-minister of public security in El Salvador during its civil war from 1979-1992. Montano commanded troops believed to be responsible for at least 1,169 human rights violations. Additionally, prosecutors believe Montano was part of the paramilitary group La Tandona that carried out extrajudicial executions. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining “dubia cardinals” who dissented from a perceived liberal tilt in the Catholic Church, praised the men who stole the controversial “Pachamama statues” from a church in Rome during last month’s Amazon Synod and threw them into the Tiber River. The German cardinal hailed the perpetrators as “courageous prophets of today.” The statues, representing the Earth Mother deity of many traditional peoples in South America, had been used in events and rituals during the Amazon Synod, which brought together 185 bishops from across the Amazon Basin. The Synod was also attended by indigenous leaders, and issued a final statement stressing the threat of climate change and the need for a concept of “ecological sin.” (Photo: National Catholic Reporter)
Days after the Catholic Church declared El Salvador's martyred Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero a saint, a judge in the Central American country issued an arrest order for a former military captain long suspected of ordering the killing of the religious leader. Judge Rigoberto Chicas issued the order for national and international authorities to apprehend Alvaro Rafael Saravia, 78. He remains at large and is believed to be in hiding. Saravia had been arrested for the crime in 1987, but the case against him was dropped when El Salvador passed its amnesty law in 1993. The case was re-opened after El Salvador's Supreme Court struck down the amnesty law in 2016. (Photo via Catholic News Agency)
The exiled Royal House of the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia elected Prince Frederic Luz as the new monarch—claiming dominion over a large area of Chile in the name of the region's Mapuche indigenous inhabitants. Although now dispersed in Britain and France, the Royal House traces its origin to 1860, when Orélie de Tounens was recognized as king by the Mapuche, on his pledge to help them resist Chilean encroachment on their unceded territory. In the 1870s, the territory was finally taken in a genocidal campaign by the Chilean military. De Tounens returned to Europe and campaigned for international recognition of his exiled government. The Royal House still advocates for the rights and sovereignty of the Mapuche today. (Photo: North American Araucanian Royalist Society via CraigsList Philadelphia)
Peru's creation of Yaguas National Park—covering nearly 870,000 hectares of rainforest along the remote border with Colombia—is being hailed as a critical advance for protection of global biodiversity. The territory in the Putumayo river basin is roughly the size of Yellowstone National Park, but with more than 10 times the diversity of flora and fauna. Despite new areas brought under protection, forest is still being rapidly lost in Peru. A recent analysis of satellite images by th Andean Amazon Monitoring Project (MAAP) found 143,425 hectares of forest were lost across the Peruvian Amazon during 2017. (Image: Inhabit.com)
Anti-war icon Tulsi Gabbard, recently a visitor with Trump and Bannon at the Trump Tower, just returned from meeting with genocidal dictator Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Colombia's Constitutional Court approved the government's plan for "fast track" authority to expedite congressional approval of terms for a peace deal with the FARC rebels.
A court in Chiapas ruled that charges of "terrorism, rebellion and sedition" against Subcommander Marcos and other leaders of the Zapatista rebels have officially expired.
Two months after formally recognizing Palestine, the Vatican objected to a Palestinian request for the two observer states to be allowed to raise their flags at UN headquarters.
Over the objections of members of his own cabinet, President Evo Morales now says he will revive an Amazon highway project that was suspended after a wave of angry protests.