Ecuador, Peru: oil spills foul Pacific coast, Amazon

Ecuador's second-largest oil pipeline burst on April 8, but exports will not be affected, the Energy Ministry emphasized. The 475-kilometer Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline has a capacity of up to 450,000 barrels per day, linking oil fields in the eastern Sucumbios province to the Pacific coast. The Energy Ministry said that around 5,500 barrels of crude were spilled when the OCP broke, and that the pipeline suspended operations following the incident. The rupture occurred in Esmeraldas province, near where the pipeline meets the Pacific. Several local campesino plots were fouled. The OCP is controlled by a consortium including Spain's Repsol-YPF, the French Perenco and Brazil's Petrobras. The country's largest pipeline, the SOTE, transports crude for paratstatal Petroamazonas, which aims to produce an average 325,000 bpd this year. (Reuters, El Comercio, Quito, April 8) Ecuador has just announced plans for a major new thrust of oil development in the Amazon, with Chinese companies in the lead.

Peru: disappearing glacier sounds climate alarm

A new study published in Science finds that a critical glacier in the Peruvian Andes has shrunk to its smallest extent nearly since the end of the last Ice Age. Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson is studying plants that have been recently exposed near Quelccaya Ice Cap, the world's largest tropical ice sheet, located 18,000 feet above sea level (straddling the border of Cuzco and Puno regions). Chemical analysis of plants exposed by melting several years ago showed them to be about 4,700 years old, proving that the ice cap had reached its smallest extent in nearly five millennia. In the new findings, a thousand feet of additional melting has exposed plants that lab analysis shows to be about 6,300 years old. Thompson said this indicates that ice that had accumulated over approximately 1,600 years melted back in no more than 25 years.

Peru: pressure on for Fujimori pardon

Peru's President Ollanta Humala is under growing pressure to decide whether to grant a "humanitarian" pardon to ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori. In recent days, a number of political opponents and even Lima Archbishop Cardinal Cipriani, a longtime Fujimori supporter, have called upon Humala to issue the pardon. Fujimori, 74, is serving a 25-year term for rights abuses and corruption. His family has requested clemency, citing poor health. Fujimori has undergone surgery several times in recent years to treat a tumor, although a medical report presented by a team of 12 commissioned specialists found no threat to his life. Former President Álan García, whose APRA party supports a pardon, called on Humala to "make a decision no or yes, but don't leave the issue in doubt." Justice Minister Eda Rivas, who is leading the pardon commission, responded, "I ask that you have patience." Ronald Gamarra, a prosecutor during Fujimori's landmark trials, charged that Cipriani "seems to be more Alberto Fujimori's attorney than the head of the Church in Peru." (Peruvian Times, April 2)

Peru: Lucanamarca massacre remembered

Peru's President Ollanta Humala oversaw a ceremony April 3 at the village of Lucanamarca (Huancasancos province, Ayacucho region), delivering a "symbolic" package of reparations for the massacre there on that date in 1983. The reparations, delivered to five communities in the district-level municipality, ammounted to 100,000 soles (not quite $40,000). The ceremony centered around the reading of the names of the 69 victims of the massacre, including 11 women and 18 children. The youngest of the victims was less then six months old. (Andina, April 3) Sendero Luminoso guerillas occupied the village and "executed" the 69 residents after villagers had killed their local commander Olegario Curitomay, in retaliation for cattle thieving by the rebels. (La Republica, April 4; pro-Sendero account at RevLeft)

Peru: scandal over Israeli security contractor

Peru's Congress has opened a high-profile investigation into a contract with Israeli security firm Global CST, entered into by the previous government of Álan García, after an audit by the Comptroller General of the Republic found irregularities in the deal. The probe concluded that the Peruvian state had lost $16 million when the firm failed to fulfil terms of its contract with the Armed Forces Joint Command. A congressional oversight commission has questioned three former cabinet members in the scandal—ex-housing minister Hernán Garrido, and ex-defense ministers Ántero Flores Aráoz and Rafael Rey—as well as ex-Joint Command chief Gen. Francisco Contreras. Special anti-corruption prosecutor Julio Arbizu has called on García himself to testify before what is being called the Mega-Commission, and for the attorney general's office, or Fiscalía, to investigate the former president. 

Peru: radio station closed in conflicted Espinar

Radio Espinar, the local transmitter in Espinar province of Peru's Cuzco region, issued a public protest charging that it was arbitrarily ordered closed by the Transport and Communications Ministry (MTC) March 18, charaterizing the move as "repression." The MTC said the decision not to renew the license was taken because the station had failed to pay an application fee and its equipment was found inadequate. But Matilde Taco Llave, daughter and legal representative of station owner Marcelino Taco Quispe, called the closure a disproportionate move, and said it was really motivated by the station's aggressive coverage of last year's local protests against the mineral operations of multinational Xstrata. "This is a consequence of having given information about what happened in the social conflict," she said. "We are sure that this is the cause."

Peru: new anti-mining struggle in Cajamarca

National Police troops attacked hundreds of campesinos in the Valle de Condebamba of Peru's northern Cajamarca region in a March 11 protest against the mineral operations of Canadian-owned Sulliden Gold Corporation. Cajamarca's regional government issued a statement saying the march was peaceful and had been attacked arbitrarily, leaving eight campesinos injured, including a pregnant woman. The protest, in Cachachi district, was organized by the rondas (self-defense patrols) of Cajabamba province.

Peru: irregularities seen in Bagua massacre case

Peru's Amazonian indigenous alliance AIDESEP released a statement March 20 protesting what they charged are irregularities in the criminal case over the June 2009 violence at Bagua. Days earlier, the local court that had been hearing the case, the Transitory Liquidative Penal Chamber of Bagua, adbicated its authority in the case against several indigenous leaders and turned it over to the National Penal Chamber, based in Lima. The National Penal Chamber officially only hears cases involving terrorism or arms and drug trafficking. AIDESEP said the transfer of the case is intended to imply that "the just struggles of indigenous peoples for the survival of their communities and humanity, as ocurred in the indigenous mobilization of 2008-2009, are acts of terrorism, and this we will not allow." (AIDESEP, March 20)

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