Seemingly irregular oil contracts have emerged as a factor in the ongoing political scandal that last week brought down Peru's president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Following accusations from left-opposition congressmember Manuel Dammert (Nuevo Perú), state agency PeruPetro admitted that hours before leaving office on March 21, Kuczynski had issued a Supreme Decree initiating the process of approving five offshore oil concessions with a private company—but without the involvement of PeruPetro in vetting the contracts, as required by law. Calling the deals "lobista," Dammert is demanding that new President Martín Vizcarra declare the contracts void. The exploration contracts for blocs off the coast of Tmubes region are with Irish company Tullow Oil, They still must be approved by the ministries of Energy & Mines and Economy & Finance. (Gestión, March 29; TeleSur, March 26; Gestión, March 24)
Protesters blocked the train line to the Inca archaeological site of Machu Picchu, stranding thousands of tourists during a 48-hour paro (civil strike) by residents of Peru's Cuzco region. British-owned PeruRail company announced that service was suspended July 13-4 because of the blockades. At issue is a planned new airport for the Cuzco area, that was suspended in March due to controversies surrounding the construction contract. The airport—slated for Chinchero Valley, to the north of Cuzco's capital in neighboring Urubamba province—has now been pushed back until 2020. Local residents were eager for the region's first intercontinental airport to boost tourism revenues, and as a symbol of autonomy from Lima. Constantino Sallo, president of the Defense Front for the Interests of Chinchero District, demanded the government set a timetable of between 90 and 120 days to break ground on the project.
Announcement of an aggressive new coca-eradication campaign in Peru was met with a deadly attack on security forces in the targeted production zone. Authorities said "narco-terrorists" attacked a National Police patrol in the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM), leaving two troops dead. The VRAEM, a pocket of jungle on the eastern slopes of the Andes, is said to produce 75% of Peru's coca leaf, but the government has until now resisted US pressure to launch an eradication program there, for fear of enflaming the tense situation in the valley. A surviving remnant of the Shining Path insurgency remains active in the VRAEM, offering cocaleros protection from security forces in exchange for their loyalty.
On Sept. 6, a confrontation at a protest roadblock in Peru's province of La Convención, Cuzco region, saw a vehicle fall into a canyon of the Rio Vilcanota, leaving two dead, including Rosalío Sánchez, mayor of the pueblo of Kepashiato. In a similar incident four days earlier, a 16-year-old youth was shot dead by National Police troops in a confrontation at a roadblock. The province has been paralyzed by a general strike since Aug. 27, to demand action on several outstanding petitions to the national government, some dating back five years. Demands include construction of a local gas processing plant; the remote jungle valley of La Convención is impacted by the Camisea gas pipeline, yet the price for gas is much higher locally than in Lima and other urban areas of the country. The Central Struggle Committee of La Convención is also demanding an investigation of local mayors and officials who they say have embezzled monies from the pipeline "canon," compensation funds to local communities for development of the project in their area. Some 1,500 National Police troops have been mobilized to the valley. (La República, Lima, Sept. 8; El Pais, Spain, Sept. 6)
The UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Sept. 2 issued a statement expressing "concern" about the "disproportionate use of force" against indigenous protesters in Peru. (Celendin Libre, AIDESEP, Sept. 2) The statement came the same day that a 16-year-old protester, Jhapet Claysont Huilca Pereira, was shot dead by National Police troops at Santa Teresa village in the Valley of La Convención, Cuzco region, during a protest against construction of the Gasoducto Sur Peruano through local lands. Protesters were blocking to road leading to the tourist attraction of Machu Picchu, charging corruption in the process by which the new gas duct gained a right-of-way through their lands. The parents of the fallen youth are demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Daniel Urresti Elera. Lawmaker Verónika Mendoza has also called on Urresti to give a full accounting of the incident, saying, "It is unacceptable that firearms are used in dealing with social conflicts." (La República, Sept. 4 La República, Celendin Libre, Celendin Libre, Sept. 3)
Highly vulnerable "uncontacted" indigenous bands who recently emerged in the Brazil-Peru border region have said that they were fleeing violent attacks in Peru. FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous affairs agency, has announced that the uncontacted bands have returned once more to their forest home. Seven members of the band made peaceful contact with a settled indigenous Ashaninka community near the Ríó Envira in Brazil's Acre state three weeks ago. A government health team was dispatched and has treated seven band members for flu. FUNAI has announced it will reopen a monitoring post on the Rió Envira which it closed in 2011 after it was overrun by drug traffickers. Survival International called the emerging news "extremely worrying," noting that isolated indigenous groups lack immunity to the flu, which has wiped out entire tribes in the past. Brazilian experts believe that the isolated bands, who belong to the Panoan linguistic group, crossed over the border from Peru into Brazil due to pressures from illegal loggers and drug traffickers on their land.
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 seems poised to move forward with the controversial expansion of the Camisea gas project in the lowland rainforest of Cuzco region, following the Jan. 7 release of a new document by the Vice-Ministry for Interculturality. The document is an official response to consortium leader Pluspetrol's own response issued a week earlier to the Vice-Ministry's objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. The new response says the Vice-Ministry is lifting 34 of its 37 objections to the impact study. The remaining three points concern protection of the watershed of the Río Paquiría, which could impact where the consortium conducts seismic tests. But the statement apparently raised no concerns about isolated indigenous bands living in the concession area, which overlaps with the buffer zone of Manu National Park, hailed by UNSECO as having a level of biological diversity that "exceeds that of any other place on Earth."