Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Oct 25 announced the creation of a new multi-million dollar fund for development projects in the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE)—the last two remaining areas of the country where the Shining Path insurgency remains active. The initiative is aimed at undermining the insurgency and providing economic alternatives to coca cultivation. (La Republica, Oct. 25) The government's Organism for the Formalization of Informal Property (COFOPRI) also announced that land titles would be granted to 784 campesino families in San Martín region's provinces of Huallaga and Lamas, both in the Huallaga Valley. Since August 2011, a total of 3,513 land parcels have been titled to peasant families in San Martín, in a bid to pacify the restive region. (Andina, Oct. 25)
The Inter-ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) on Oct. 17 issued a "Plan for the Full Life of the Amazon," calling for indigenous-directed development projects, with the necessary funds to be provided by companies that exploit resources in the Amazonian regions. But the document, which was presented to the executive and legislative branches of the Peruvian government, draws a hard line against numerous existing and planned exploitation projects. It states that forests are threatened by 26 hydro-electric projects, particularly naming the Inambari project in Madre de Dios region and the Tambo 40 project in the Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE); that hydrocarbon blocs cover 70% of the Peruvian Amazon, with mineral blocs of an additional 10 million hectares; and that an "inundation" of new roads into indigenous territory constitutes a "grave threat to the autonomous peoples," especially naming the controversial Purús-Iñapari highway in Madre de Dios. The statement called upon Peru's government to comply with International Labor Organization Convention 169 and halt projects that have not been approved in prior consultation with impacted indigenous peoples. (AIDESEP, Oct. 17)
On Oct. 16 in Lima, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) met with Ydelso Hernández, president of the Unitary Struggle Command in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, who is seeking an order from the IACHR halting the controversial Conga mining project. Hernández said a group representing rondas campesinos (peasant self-defense patrols) in Cajamarca will travel to Washington DC at month's end to testify before the IACHR about rights violations associated with the project.
Campesinos in Cajamarca, Peru, continue to organize round-the-clock vigilance at the proposed site of Yanacocha company's Conga gold mine, in response to reports of construction work at the concession bloc despite official assurances that the project is suspended. Organized in rondas (self-defense patrols), the campesinos are monitoring activities at the high-altitude lakes that would have to be destroyed for the project to proceed. Idelso Hernández of the Cajamarca Unitary Struggle Front said Oct. 12, "Now there are 1,200 people mobilized to protect the lakes. The comuneros have decided to maintain a permanent presence in the zone to block any effort by Yanacocha to transfer workers or equipment there." Some 600 National Police troops have also been deployed to the site.
Creditors of the troubled Doe Run Peru company voted to sell the controversial metal smelting complex at La Oroya, Junín region, to Citibank, Peru's Energy and Mines Ministry (MEM) announced Oct. 11. The New York financial giant will have responsibility for reorganizing the smelter's debts and environmental management plan, as well as those of another scandal-ridden project that will be transferred, the Cobriza gold and copper mine in neighboring Huancavelica region. After three years of being idled by government order over pollution concerns, the decrepit Oroya smelter, which has been dubbed "Peru's Chernobyl," resumed limited operations in July. The local dispute over the issue bitterly divided the local community, pitting campesinos who oppose the smelter against residents employed by Doe Run, who were laid off when the plant was ordered shut. Last year, Doe Run Peru was cited by MEM for resuming construction of a tailings containment area at Cobriza without approval. The mine is still officially halted pending an environmental impact review. (Diario 16, Oct. 13; La Republica, Andina, Oct. 12; MineWeb, July 30; El Comercio, Oct. 18, 2011)
On Oct. 10, the US Justice Department announced the seizure of more than $31 million in funds allegedly "connected to an international money laundering scheme run by a drug trafficking organization operated by members of the Sánchez-Paredes family," a Peruvian clan deemed by US law enforcement to be a drug trafficking organization (DTO). The funds were held in nine US banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, none of which have been charged with any wrongdoing. Additional moneys in three Peruvian bank accounts have also been frozen. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York found that the family was using its gold mining interests as a front for cocaine trafficking:
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 12—recognized in Latin America as Día de La Raza—issued an official apology to indigenous communities in the Amazon for deaths and destruction caused by the rubber boom beginning a century ago. From 1912 to 1929 the Peruvian firm Casa Arana, led by rubber baron Julio César Arana with British backing, exploited rubber near La Chorrera in what is now Colombia's Amazonas department. Up 100,000 people were killed and communities devastated in the operations, with indigenous rainforest dwellers forced into slave labor and slain or displaced if they resisted. The situation was brought to the world's attention following an investigation by British diplomat Roger Casement, who had previously documented similar atrocities in the Belgian Congo.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, meeting with President Ollanta Humala in Lima Oct. 6, secured an agreement to re-negotiate Washington's 60-year-old defense cooperation pact with Peru. Panetta said updating the 1952 accord would "improve our ability to conduct joint activities, to do training and other exchanges. Ultimately that will help us deal with shared security challenges in the future." On the eve of the visit, the Department of Defense issued a press release broadly outlining new measures called for in the 2012 Western Hemisphere Defense Policy Statement—including plans to invite Peru to participate in a US program of Ministry of Defense Advisers (MODA), currently being pioneered in Afghanistan. "If Peru accepts, MODA will embed a technical expert in the Ministry of Defense for up to two years," the DoD statement said. "The expert will provide consistent technical advice on issues like budgeting, acquisition, procurement, planning and strategic planning." (Reuters, Oct. 7; Peruvian Times, Oct. 6; DoD press release, Oct. 5)