Peru

Constitutional crisis in Peru

President Martín Vizcarra of Peru ordered Congress to dissolve Oct. 1, prompting opposition lawmakers to vote to suspend him and plunging the nation into a crisis. Vizcarra and the right-opposition bloc in control of Congress have long been divided over the ongoing political scandal in Peru.  Vizcarra finally made his move after lawmakers appointed a new member to the top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, which would be the arbiter in a legal dispute between Congress and the Executive. Opposition lawmakers responded to Vizcarra's decision by accusing him of staging "a coup," and immediately voted to suspend him for 12 months, to be replaced by the vice president, Mercedes Aráoz. Vizcarra maintains the vote has no legitimacy because it came after Congress itself had been dissolved.

'Development' deal to 'protect' (=destroy) Amazon

The US and Brazil on Sept. 13 announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to "protect biodiversity" by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. At the meeting in Washington where the pact was struck, Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest. So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us." (BBC News, Sept. 14; AFP, Sept. 13)

Bolsonaro to The Hague?

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro failed to attend the summit of leaders of seven South American countries with Amazon Basin territory to address the devastating fires now consuming the rainforest. Duque claimed a medical emergency, and was represented by his foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, at the meeting in Colombia's Amazonian city of Leticia on Sept. 6. The presidents of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as Araujo, the natural resouces minister of Guyana and vice president of Suriname agreed to form an "Amazonian cooperation network" to track deforestation across borders. Venezuela, despite having a large swath of Amazonian territory, was not invited, as Colombia does not recognize the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Brazil has the largest share of the Amazon by far, and Bolsonaro's failure to attend was assailed by environmentalists worldwide. 

Delays in Peruvian climate change lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide against a European utility over the imminently threatening impacts of climate change in the high Andes has been stalled for months in the evidentiary stage, partially due to the lack of an inter-governmental legal assistance agreement between Germany and Peru. Earlier this year, the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, in North Rhine-Westphalia, made a request to the government of Peru to be allowed to inspect the alpine lakes that are the subject of the lawsuit. This is expected to take at least one year to arrange. Meanwhile, signs mount of the glaciers above the lakes becoming destabilized by warming, portending a regional disaster.

Peru: anti-mine protesters score victory

Peru's Ministry of Energy & Mines (MINEM) on Aug. 9 officially suspended the license of the giant copper mine planned for Tia Maria, in the agricultural Tambo Valley of Arequipa region. The project had been the focus of years of protest mobilizations by local residents, and a new general strike, dubbed the Paro Macro-Regional, had been declared after MINEM finally issued a construction permit to the project's developer, Southern Copper Corporation, on July 8. In revoking the permit, MINEM implicitly invoked the protests, saying the "spaces for dialogue had not been generated" before the license was granted. Although the suspesion is indefinite, MINEM chief Francisco Ismodes said a review process for the social impacts of the project should take three months. Before the suspension, the Tambo Valley had been girding for a new wave of repression; days earlier, the Public Ministry issued an order allowing the use of military troops against protesters in the area. (AP via SinEmbergo, Aug. 11; Diario Uno, Diario Uno, Aug. 10; Reuters, Aug. 9; Peoples Dispatch, July 23)

Italy hands down sentences in 'Operation Condor'

An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison on July 8, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were tracked down and eliminated across South America's borders in the 1970s and early '80s. The exact number of people who were killed through this operation is not known. The case before the court focused on the disappearance of 43 people, 23 of whom were Italian citizens. The prosecutors applied the universal jurisdiction precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina's military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time.

Peru: acquitted Bagua defendants may face retrial

Defense lawyers for the 53 indigenous activists who were cleared of charges in the 2009 Bagua massacre were ordered to testify before a Peruvian Supreme Court magistrate June 26, as the high court's penal chamber considers a request from the government for a retrial in the case. The defendants were acquitted by a lower court in 2016 in the slaying of National Police troops in the clash at Bagua, which began when police attacked an indigenous roadblock during a protest campaign against oil and resource exploitation in the rainforest. By official figures, 33 were slain in the incident, including 10 indigenous activists. In 2017, Peru's Prosecutor General and Public Ministry called upon the Supreme Court to review the acquittals. The high court agreed to consider a retrail for the crimes of riot, illegal possession of firearms and obstruction of public services, although not homicide.

Peru: more indigenous protests over oil spills

A new rupture on the disaster-plagued North Peruvian Pipeline fouled local water sources that several indigenous communities depend on in Peru's rainforest region of Loreto. The spill occurred June 19 at kilometer 227 on the pipeline, in Manseriche district, Datem del Marañón province. The government's Environmental Evaluation & Fiscalization Organism (OEFA) is overseeing recovery efforts, but the local communities of Nuevo Progreso and Saramiriza are demanding emergency potable water deliveries, saying they have been without clean water since the spill. Pipeline operator PetroPeru is blaming the rupture on "an act of delinquency" by local residents. (Gestión, EFE, June 23; InfoRegion, Gestión, June 19)

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