Peru

Japanese-Peruvian veteran of US concentration camps dies waiting for justice

Isamu (Art) Shibayama, a rights advocate for Latin Americans of Japanese descent who were detained in prison camps in the United States during World War II, died July 31 at his home in San Jose, Calif. Born in Lima, Peru, in 1930, Shibayama was 13 when his family was detained and forcibly shipped to the United States on a vessel charted by the US armed forces. They were among some 2,000 Japanese-Peruvians who were rounded up and turned over to the US military for detention after the Pearl Harbor attack. Upon their arrival in New Orleans, the family was transported to the "internment camp" for Japanese-Americans at Crystal City, Texas. The family would remain in detention until 1946.

Peru: protests win resignation of high officials

The day after thousands of Peruvians filled the streets of downtown Lima in a March Against Corruption, Duberli Rodriguez stepped down from his posts as head of the country's justice department, Poder Judicial, and president of the Supreme Court. Orlando Velasquez, president of the National Council of the Magistrature, also resigned. The justice minister, Salvador Heresi, had already been sacked by President Martín Vizcarra days earlier, amid a widening scandal concerning the perverting of the court system. The outrage was sparked when national media outlets, following leaks to investigative website IDL Reporters, aired a series of telephone recordings involving an extensive network of judges, businessmen and local authorities describing illegal deals. Heresi himself was in one of the recordings, in which he arranged a meeting with a Supreme Court judge, Cesar Hinostroza Pariachi, seemingly to sell favors., In another recording, Hinostroza is heard talking with an unidentified man about the suspect in the rape of an 11-year-old girl, openly offering to reduce the sentence or drop the charge entirely. Walter Ríos, former top judge for the city of Callao, has already been placed under "preventative detention." The Executive Council of Poder Judicial has declared a 90-day internal "state of emergency" in the department while the corruption is under investigation. Rodriguez said he was resigning "due to the institutional crisis." (France24, BBC News, Peru21, TeleSur, Peru Reports, La República, La República, Correo)

Peru: water defender acquitted in anti-mine fight

Social leader Milton Sánchez Cubas in Peru's northern Cajamarca region was acquitted July 16 of all criminal charges brought by the local subsidiary of US-based 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. Sánchez was represented by EarthRights International, which said in a statement, "[T]his case shows how the government uses legal tools to penalize freedom of expression, the right to information, freedom of assembly, and the right to protest." (ERI, July 16) Campesina Maxima Acuña de Chaupe, whose family lands were at issue in the dispute,  was cleared of "land usurpation" by Peru's Supreme Court last May. (La República)

Peru cracks down on supposed FARC renegades

In a joint anti-drug operation code-named "Armagedon," Peruvian military and National Police troops carried out a series of raids in the remote Putumayo river valley along the Colombian border this week, arresting some 40, destroying four cocaine laboratories, and seizing large quantities of cocaine sulfate and harvested cannabis. The raids took place in the locality of Güeppí, near Laguna Pacora, Putumayo province, Loreto region. The majority of those detained were Colombian nationals, and authorities said they suspect the presence of "dissident" FARC units, who are trying to establish the zone as a staging ground to keep alive their insurgency. More than 350 troops have been deployed in the operation, with five helicopters and three planes as well as boats. The operation is being coordinated with Colombian security forces, who are carrying out similar missions on their side of the Río Putumayo. (BBC News, July 18; El Comercio, July 16)

'Gasolinazo' protests rock Peru

Hundreds marched on Peru's Congress building June 5, in a rally that ended in clashes with the riot police in Lima's central Plaza San Martín, and a police car set on fire. The "Shut Down Congress" (Cierren el Congreso) mobilization was called to protest both economic austerity and official corruption, and came amid new revelations of vote-buying.  It was the second such march since May 31, which saw a similar mobilization in downtown Lima. The press has dubbed the protest wave the "gasolinazo," as the high price of petrol (despite depressed global oil prices) is a key grievance.

Fujimori to face charges over forced sterilization

Peru's top public prosecutor Luis Landa Burgos on April 25 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, Marino Costa Bauer, Eduardo Yong Motta and Alejandro Aguinaga, are also to face charges, as well as his director of the National Family Planning Program, Jorge Parra Vergara. Also named are presidential advisor Ulises Jorge Aguilar and the health director for Cajamarca region, Segundo Henry Aliaga. 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. She traveled to the regional capital from her remote village for a check-up after the birth of her fourth child; at the hospital, she was put under general anesthesia and sterilized without her consent.

Peru: ex-Senderistas transferred to house arrest

Two imprisoned leaders of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement were released from military prison to house arrest by authorities in Peru, sparking outrage and debate in the country's media. Osmán Morote, once considered the number-two man in the organization, was arrested by anti-terrorist police in Lima in 1988. He completed his 25-year term in 2013, but remained in detention as new charges were brought against him. He was now accused of having directed from prison the 1992 car-bomb attack on Tarata Street in Lima that left 23 dead. This year, additional charges were brought against him, concerning the 1984 massacre of 120 peasants at the village of Soras, Ayacucho. Also ordered released was Margot Liendo, who was arrested in 1988 along with Morote, and also faces outstanding charges in the Tarata Street attack. The transfers from the detention facility at Callao Naval Base were ordered by the National Penal Chamber of Peru. Both Morote and Liendo were required to pay a bond of 10,000 soles ($3,100), and will be guarded at their homes in the Lima area by National Police agents. Morote and Liendo have both declared a hunger strike in protest of the police presence and house arrest order, saying they should have absolute freedom after serving their 25-year terms. But President Martín Vizcarra called upon the judges to reverse their decision, and keep Morote and Liendo behind bars while the new charges are pending against them. (El País, Peru21, April 20; InfoBae, April 27)

Peru: victory in protests over water price hike

All economic activities were suspended for several days in Peru's southern city of Moquegua as residents launched a civil strike to protest a planned large hike in water prices. The protests were relaxed April 19, when the central government sent a representative to meet with local and community leaders. The government initially proposed that the National Superintendancy of Sanitation Services (SURNASS) suspend for a year implementation of its March decree hiking water prices by 20% in arid Moquegua region. But protesters demanded that the decree be overturned entirely. Finally, the Technical Organism for Administration of Sanitation Services (OTASS),  agreed to invest more money in Moquegua's infrastructure, heading off the need for the price hike. Authorities warned that the region's water system is at the brink of "collapse." (El Comercio, April 20; La República, Andina, April 19) 

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