Peru warned on repression of peasant protests

In an open letter Sept. 20, Human Rights Watch urged Peru's President Ollanta Humala to take steps to prevent the unlawful killing of protesters, noting growing incidents of deadly force. Local media report that at least 19 have died in protests over mineral projects since Humala took office last year. On the same day HRW issued the letter, National Police killed a protester at Barrick Gold's Pierina mine in Áncash region. The confrontation came as residents from Mareniyoc and other local villages pushed their way onto the company's property, prompting police guarding the entrance to open fire. Barrick temporarily suspend production at the mine following the clash, in which four campesinos were also injured.

Peru: indigenous consulta rejects mineral project

On Oct. 1, the indigenous village of San Juan Bautista de Cañaris in Peru's northern region of Lambayeque announced the results of a consulta, or community consultation, on the proposed Cañariaco Norte open-pit copper mine, saying 1,896 members of the pueblo of some 4,000 voted by 95% to reject it. The results were immediately forwarded to the Energy and Mines Ministry (MINEM). Vancouver-based Candente Copper, which hopes to develop the project, issued a statement rejecting the consulta, saying the community had already approved the project in a "general assembly" held on July 8. The statement noted that the "general assembly" has been called for judicial authorities after Cristobal Barrios, the president of the Cañaris Campesino Community, had refused to convene it. The statement said the "general assembly" had been confirmed as "legally binding" by MINEM, and charged that Barrios had called the consulta "unilaterally" in violation of Peru's General Law of Campesino Communities (PDF). Cañaris community representatives, in turn, noted that more residents participated in the consulta than in the "general assembly," and insisted that the new vote represents the will of the community. (Marketwire Canada, Bloomberg, Oct. 2; El Comercio via Gato EncerradoDiario Correo, Oct. 1)

Peru: court rules for indigenous sovereignty

Peru's Supreme Court on Sept. 26 ruled in favor of the Shipibo and Ese'Eja indigenous community of Tres Islas in the southern Amazon basin region of Madre de Dios, finding that the rainforest dwellers have the right to block a road that illegal miners and timber cutters use to enter their territory. Indigenous organizations hailed the ruling as an important precedent for peoples trying to halt mining, logging or oil drilling on their lands. "We think this will serve as an example for other indigenous groups to take their cases to the top court," said Jaime Tapullima Pashanase, president of the Ethnic Council of Kechwa Peoples of the Amazon (CEPKA). Added Julio Ibañez Moreno, a lawyer for Peru's trans-Amazonian alliance AIDESEP: "I consider this ruling very important for indigenous communities. This is an advance in terms of the rights they have been demanding."

Peru coca crop rises for sixth year: UN

Peru's coca crop increased by some 5.2% in 2011, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)—marking the sixth consecutive year that cultivation increased in the Andean nation. Some 64,400 hectares of coca cultivation were detected in satellite images, compared to the estimated 61,200 hectares cultivated in 2010. While the Upper Huallaga Valley and Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE) continued to account for some 50% of Peru's illegal coca crop, the area under cultivation in these zones increased by only 1%. However, cultivation was up by over 40% in northern Peru, with the provinces of Putumayo and Bajo Amazonas (both in Loreto region) especially named—areas newly opened to cultivation, where the government carries out no eradication campaigns. "Drug traffickers are becoming more efficient," said Flavio Mirella, chief of UNODC's Peruvian office, during a presentation of the report in Lima. "Traffickers need less coca leaf to produce more cocaine. Routes of supply are diversifying and producing areas are getting closer to certain routes of exit" toward Bolivia and Brazil, he said. (Bloomberg, UNODC press release, Sept. 27; BBC News, Sept. 26*)

Peru: jungle shoot-out as narco-flight intercepted

Peru's National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO) claimed a blow against the resurgent Sendero Luminoso guerillas after intercepting a plane loaded with 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of cocaine in plastic-wrapped bricks when it landed at a clandestine airstrip in a jungle area of Oxapampa province, Pasco region, Sept. 18. The crew of the Bolivian-registered Cessna put up armed resistance before fleeing into the jungle. A manhunt to apprehend them is now underway. DIRANDRO said the cocaine  originated in the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM), a jungle zone just south of Oxapampa where the "narcosenderista" brothers Víctor, Jorge and Martín Quispe Palomino—known by the respective code-names  "José," "'Raúl" and "Gabriel"—are said to control coca production. The cocaine was believed to have been brought to Oxapampa by back-pack along jungle trails, and was to be flown to Bolivia for re-export to Brazil in an operation overseen by wanted Bolivian kingpin William Rosales. (RIA-Novosti, La Republica, InfoSur Hoy, Peruvian TimesReuters, Sept. 18)

Peru: Cajamarca regional strike remobilizes

Despite recent statements indicating that the planned mega-scale Conga gold mine in Peru's northern Cajamarca region will be suspended, Yanacocha mining company has started work on a reservoir at Laguna Chaugallón near the proposed concession area, apparently in preparation for the project—sparking a new wave of protests from local campesinos. Wilfedo Saavedra, leader of the Cajamarca Defense Front, said that the regional paro (civil strike) to oppose the project would remobilize on Sept. 21, when comuneros (communal peasants) from Bambamarca province will blockade operations at the site. "We will return to protest because the Newmont company has received permission to complete the first part of the project, which consists of construction of the reservoirs," Saavedra said, referring to the US-based Newmont Mining Company which is the majority holder in Yanacocha.

Peru: first 'prior consultations' on Amazon oil development

Peru's official human rights ombudsman, Defender of the People Eduardo Vega, is set to convene the first "prior consultation" with Amazonian indigenous peoples on oil development in their territory, under terms of a new law passed earlier this year establishing protocols for the process. The consultation concerns a planned new round of oil contracts planned for Bloc 1AB, currently held by Argentine firm Pluspetrol, in the watersheds of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers in the northeast of Loreto region. The Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the East (ORPIO), with an office in the city of Iquitos, it to represent the impacted indigenous peoples. Vega pledged the process will be executed "with the utmost clarity so that rights of the indigenous peoples will be respected and the same process can serve for other consultations that will subsequently be carried out."

Peru: justice sought in slaying of mine opponent

On the morning of Sept. 7, as workers arrived by bus at the giant Yanacocha mine in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, agents of the National Police Criminal Investigation Directorate (DIRINCRI) arrived and arrested employee Jesús Elías Salcedo Becerra, 38, as suspected intellectual author of the Nov. 1, 2006 slaying of peasant ecologist Esmundo Becerra Cotrina, gunned down in a hail of 17 bullets while grazing his livestock at Yanacanchilla community, La Encañada district, Cajamarca province. National Police spokesman William Vásquez called the arrest a "preliminary detention," saying that an investigation is underway in cooperation with local offices of the Fiscalía, Peru's public prosecutor. Relatives of Becerra Cotrina arrived as Salcedo was being taken away, and fiercely beat him before being restrained by police and Yanacocha security.

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