VRAE

Peru declares no-fly zone over coca valley

Authorities in Peru Feb. 4 announced the declaration of a no-fly zone over the conflicted coca-producing region known as the VRAEM, for the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, in the country's southeast jungles. The head of Peru's anti-drug agency DEVIDA, Alberto Otarola (a former defense minister), spoke in blunt terms at a Lima press conference: "Any flight that is not reported to the aviation authority will be considered hostile and illegal. Peru must exercise the full sovereignty and jurisdiction of its airspace."

Peru: populist governor re-elected from prison

Gregorio Santos, the populist president of Peru's Cajamarca region, was comfortably re-elected Oct. 5—despite being imprisoned as corruption charges are pending against him. The biggest issue in the race by far was the unpopular Conga gold mine project, majority-owned by US-based Newmont Mining. Peru's central government said it would recognize the victory, while his supporters marched in Lima to demand his freedom. Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal called for a "political dialogue with all the actors" to resolve the crisis in Cajamarca. But Jorge Vergara Quiroz, president of the Cajamarca Chamber of Commerce, said that Santos' re-election created a climate of "uncertainty" that would discourage investment, and called on him not to take office. Segundo Mendoza, spokesman for Santos' Social Affirmation Movement (MAS), responded that the party respects private investment. He called on authorities to free Santos, saying he posed no flight risk.

Peru: new ops against 'narco-senderistas'

Peru's National Police force has stepped up operations against what the press in the South American nation calls narco-senderistas—surviving remnants of the Shining Path guerilla movement that control cocaine production in two remote pockets of jungle. On July 19, the special Anti-Terrorist Directorate (DIRCOTE) announced the arrest of four members of Shining Path's Huallaga Regional Committee, the command body for the guerilla column in the coca-producing Upper Huallaga Valley. They were arrested at a market stall in the town of Ventanilla (Huánuco region), operated by one of the four, María Bautista Rojas, but DIRCOTE said they were part of the "platoon" led by the guerilla commander Juan Laguna Domínguez AKA "Comrade Piero," with responsibility for several caseríos (hamlets) in the nearby jungle. (El Comercio, July 19)

Shining Path leaders indicted in US court

Three leaders of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement were indicted July 1 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Those charged are Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who was captured by Peruvian security forces in February 2012; and the brothers Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, who remain at large. The charges include conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; narco-terrorism conspiracy; and two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. (Newsweek, July 2)

Peru: Sendero harass pipeline project

A worker was wounded Feb. 17, when presumed Sendero Luminoso guerillas fired on a camp of the Camisea pipeline consortium at the remote jungle settlement of Cigakiato, Echarate district, La Convención province, Cuzco region. (AP, InfoRegión, Feb. 17) In seemingly coordinated attacks three days later, presumed Senderistas opened fire on two military outposts in the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM). The first attack at Counter-terrorist Base Unión Mantaro, Canaire district, Huanta province, Ayacucho region, apparently claimed no casualties or damage. In the second, at nearby Consorcio Vila Quinua, material damage to the outspot was reported. (La Voz de Huamangam, Feb. 20)

Peru: coup d'etat against Humala planned?

The Peruvian blogosphere is abuzz with rumors of an imminent coup d'etat against President Ollanta Humala, fomented by elements of the opposition APRA party. Humala has reportedly put off all travel abroad and is limiting his trips into the interior of the country, staying close to Lima for fear of a move against his government if he leaves the capital. The National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) has reportedly warned that elements of the National Police are discussing a strike over various greivances, actually aimed at causing an explosion of chaos and debilitating the government—following the model of the right-wing coup of Feb. 5, 1975, that brought Francisco Morales Bermúdez to power. Humala is said to have lost the confidence of the Armed Forces Joint Command, which is unhappy with his execution of the counter-insurgency program in Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Sendero Luminoso guerillas remains active. (Raúl Weiner in La Mula, Dec. 23)

Peru: life term for neo-senderista

Peru's National Penal Chamber on June 7 sentenced one of the last "historic" leaders of the Shining Path guerilla movement to life in prison on terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Florencio Flores Hala AKA "Comrade Artemio" raised his fist in defiance as the sentence was read at a naval base in Callao, where the trial was carried out under tight security. He said that he preferred the death penalty over life imprisonment, adding: "I have nothing to ask forgiveness for, I have nothing to regret." "Artemio," 51, was also fined 500 million soles ($183 million) in damages. Attorney Alfredo Crespo called the sentence a "political statement," and his client a "political prisoner." After the guerilla movement was crushed in the 1990s, "Artemio" retreated to the high jungles of the Upper Huallaga Valley, where he led remnant Sendero Luminoso forces in a local insurgency.

Peru: protests over militarization of coca zone

Peru's coca-producing Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Shining Path remains active, has seen growing protests over militarization and abuses by the security forces. On May 21, Fedia Castro, mayor of La Convención province (Cusco region), led a "March for Peace and Dignity" at the provincial seat of Quillabamba, to demand justice in a recent incident that left nine local residents wounded by army gunfire—including four women and a one-year-old infant. In the May 6 incident at Kepashiato village, army troops opened fire on a combi (commercial minibus) filled with local campesinos. The army says gunfire first came from the combi, and that a G3 assault rifle was later found on board. The passengers—including the wounded driver and owner of the vehicle, Rómulo Almirón Fuentes—deny that any firearm was found, challenging the army to produce it. They are also demanding compensation, including for damage to the combi. (Enlace Nacional, May 21; RPP, May 9; El Comercio, May 6)

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