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Sunday, August 31

Too many deaths, not enough time to tell their stories

Truth Commission Leaves Many Indians in Peru Unsatisfied: "The commission's work is considered by human rights groups and foreign governments to be among the best of a string of similar boards formed to investigate conflict and authoritarian governments from Guatemala to South Africa. Still, the report has shortcomings ? a product of the murky nature of a conflict in which thousands died in obscure massacres, their bodies buried in unmarked graves." NY Times This same article is available at SFGate for those who don't want to register (free) with the NYTimes.

Friday, August 29

More on the Truth Commission - Getting its message out

Peru's shame at rebel war that claimed 69,000 lives: "Far from closing the final chapter on a grisly past, however, the report threatens to reopen deep fissures in Peruvian society. In particular it confronts President Alejandro Toledo with a dilemma, at a moment when his popularity is at a low ebb and Peru's democracy, brought back after the downfall of President Fujimori three years ago, has rarely looked more fragile. On the one hand, Mr Toledo faces growing calls from the Peruvian left as well as international human rights groups to launch criminal prosecutions against those implicated in the report, some of them retired military figures and former politicians." Independent (UK)

Peru truth panel takes report to violence victims: "Several thousand people -- many dirt-poor peasants wearing typical braids, hats and wide skirts -- thronged the main square in Huamanga to hear commission President Salomon Lerner present the report and honor the victims. His speech was translated into Quechua, the mother-tongue of many present." Reuters

Truth Commission's Report

For those interested in seeing the final draft of the Truth Commission's report. Please note there is no English version of the documents.

Also check out the visuals. You can also display the photos on your page.

Two years stand out during decade of violence

20 Years of Bloodshed and Death: "The Commission states that the Belaúnde and García administrations are to be held responsible for failing to implement an integral strategy and for allowing human rights violations to become a systematic practice by the armed forces during some periods and in certain zones of conflict. In just two years -- 1983 and 1984 -- under the Belaúnde government, the greatest number of deaths were committed in the entire conflict: 19,468 victims, or 28 percent of the total. " Inter Press Service

Report on decade of violence points to political heavyweights

69,000 died in strife, Peru says: "The report also implicates Fujimori's predecessors, Fernando Belaúnde and Alan García, who held office during the 1980s, and others -- everyone from ''the devil to the Cardinal,'' as Caretas newsweekly magazine put it recently, referring to the demonized leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzmán, and Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, accused of turning a blind eye to government abuses when he was archbishop of Ayacucho, where the worst violence occurred in the 1980s." Miami Herald Both Garcia and Cipriani have been less than enthusiastic about the Truth Commission's work and final output.

FOA information adds to new dimension to Peruvian human rights and political reporting

The Search for Truth -- The Declassified Record on Human Rights Abuses in Peru: "This briefing book offers a selection of historical materials from U.S. government sources that sheds light on this brutal period. They are taken from a recent special release of records to the Peruvian people by the Bush administration and from collections of declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act. Both were important sources for the Truth Commission's report." National Security Archive I have not had a chance to look through these documents. In the past, they've tended to be rather general overviews of the Peruvian situation from U.S. Embassy staffers. Now, the descriptions are more interesting.

Human Rights Watch asks the Peruvian government to dig deeper.

Prosecutions Should Follow Truth Commission Report: "'These figures far exceed previous estimates,' said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Americas Division. 'They reveal the utter brutality of the insurgency in Peru, as well as the repressiveness of the measures that were taken to contain it.' " Human Rights Watch

And the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) apparently was responsible to the new higher body count, as stated in the press release.

Camisea gas fails to get U.S. funding

Peru denied Export-Import bank funds for gas project: "Thursday's vote marked a victory for environmental and indigenous groups, which have lobbied long and hard against the $2 billion project on the grounds that it would harm Peru's pristine jungles and native inhabitants." Reuters So much for George W. Bush helping out all his pals in the petroleum industry.

Natural Gas Project in Peru Loses Bid for U.S. Funding: "U.S. officials who have reviewed the project's environmental impacts, as required by law, have raised concerns that twin pipelines already have caused damage and opened a likely pathway into the Lower Urubamba rain forest, endangering people who live in the reserves. An analysis by the U.S. Agency for International Development said that U.S. environmental laws required the Treasury Department to vote no at the IDB because necessary environmental studies were not completed before the vote." Washington Post

U.S. Funding Denied for Peru Gas Project: "Two of the companies involved, Hunt Oil Co. of Dallas and Halliburton Co. of Houston, have close ties to the Bush administration and the Republican party. Hunt Oil teamed with two Argentine companies, Pluspetrol and Tecgas, for the project's estimated $1.45 billion first phase: exploring and building a pipeline and natural gas distribution network." Kansas City Star / AP

The body count keeps growing, looking back on the violence

Peru Report Says 69,000 Died in 20 Years of Rebel War: "The report's nine volumes, thousands of pages long, provide details about the massacres in Indian villages, the brutal crackdown on prison uprisings and the operation of a secret paramilitary unit called the Colina group. Commission workers said it also explained in detail the effects of the conflict on the Indians, an isolated people, victims of racism and indifference." NY Times And to think, we're just scratching the surface. If you do not want to register (free) with the Times, you can see the same article at Yahoo.

Also see Reuters's Chilling truth about Peru's rebel wars and AP's Peru's powerful military upset with study on political violence , Peru's Truth Commission ready to explain two decades of political violence and Peru's Truth Commission ready to explain two decades of political violence in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, August 28

Toledo becomes poster child for hapless LatAm politicos

Peru's Toledo: A New Kind of Teflon President: "In retrospect Peru has much to be proud since the end of Alberto Fujimori's autocratic regime. And as the results of the Truth Commission's two-year investigation released Thursday are digested, Peru and the United States ought to see Toledo's successes and failures in the light of democratic rule. But the irony remains, that today Toledo is less popular than the predecessors whose two decades of corrupt and oppressive rule can hardly be called democratic." Washington Post The ironies of the Toledo presidency are not lost on some observer.

Monday, August 25

Peru and Brazil open up prospects for Mercosur

Mercosur deal could put Peru on map: "Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade Alfredo Ferrero said the accord signed by President Alejandro Toledo and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday made Peru an associate member of the $890 billion Mercosur bloc like neighbors Chile and Bolivia." Forbes / Reuters

Tuesday, August 19

Starbucks touts its environment-friendly, pro-grower brew in Peru

Starbucks Starts South American Push: "Starbucks Latin American President Julio Gutierrez said the new Peruvian brand coffee, which comes from the southern jungle valley of Tambopata and has been developed with environmental group Conservation International, was proof of the company's fair trade credentials. Gutierrez said Starbucks was paying around twice the average international price over the last year for its Peruvian coffee -- a sustainable crop that will benefit local communities -- 'and that's something that reaches the farmer.'" Planet Ark More power to them. Coffee growing in Peru has been a hazardous venture for decades. Peru has never been able to match Peru or Brazil for quality or consistency.

Monday, August 18

Increasing number of climbing accidents in Peruvian Andes

Beauty Masks Deadly Danger in Peru's Icy Andes: "An unpredictable climate many blame on global warming and El Nino and a steady stream of often ill-prepared climbers have prompted a rash of accidents in this dramatic stretch of Andean peaks 300 miles north of Lima -- some of the most challenging climbing in the hemisphere.
Since June, 11 people, nearly all foreigners, have died in the stretch of peaks known as the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash. And more than a month remains in the June through September climbing season which draws about 5,000 climbers yearly." Reuters

Sunday, August 17

Tapping the Poor?s Riches

The Last Word: Hernando de Soto: "About 18 years ago, when I first looked at Peruvian shantytowns, I thought I?d started the world revolution. I thought, hey, the poor are really richer than the rich, in aggregate terms. All you need is to get rid of all these ungodly barriers that keep them back. I soon found out it?s much more complicated than that. Lately, though, we?ve gotten calls from 20 heads of state. I?ve already visited 17 of them. Now I?m really getting excited." Newsweek An interview with Peru's world-famous proponent of cutting out red tape. Seventeen years with the same message -- that's staying on script.

Wednesday, August 13

On Peru's crazy political stage, the human rights investigators are being accused of advocating terrorism

Truth Commission Under Pressure: "A Lima prosecutor has opened an investigation to decide whether to charge the twelve members of the commission with 'advocating terrorism' (apología del terrorismo), a serious crime in Peru. A legislator sympathetic to former president Alberto Fujimori lodged the complaint because he objected to a video screened in June at a public hearing held by the commission." Human Rights Watch Political histeria is stirring its ugly head in Lima.

Tuesday, August 12

Broadcaster sways the masses

She Earns Big Ratings, but Can't Buy Groceries: "It's that kind of bravado that has made Ms. Bozzo a star, the commanding ringmaster of the smash hit 'Laura,' seen by 1 million viewers in the United States and millions more in Latin America. But lately her righteous defiance has taken on a different cast, as she has found herself the center of a scandal as dramatic as anything ever staged on her set." NYTimes

Saturday, August 9

Another internationlal capture of Sendero activist

Spain extradites Maoist rebel suspect to Peru: "[Adolpho] Olaechea has lived in Britain since leaving Peru in the early 1970s but was arrested in July during a vacation in Almeria, Spain. 'He will face trial for defending terrorism, the charge on which he was extradited, but he is facing other charges in Peru,' Deputy Justice Minister Adolfo Solf told Reuters." Reuters AlertNet Olaechea was the biggest Sendero apologist abroad.

Wednesday, August 6

Japanese publication calls for Fujimori to come clean with Peru

Fujimori's aspirations: "Peruvian anger is building against Fujimori. They now see Fujimori avoid returning to Peru by utilizing his dual nationality despite having served as president of the country. The issue also creates problems for Peruvians of Japanese ancestry, of whom few now support the ex-president. Fujimori has hinted he intends to return to political life, with his eye on the Peruvian presidential election of 2006. If that is so, this might be the best time for him to take the chance of returning to Peru to establish a time and place for candor with the people of Peru, including trying to deal directly with the charges against him." This article is not a view that is commonly found in Japan.

For a more favorable view, see this interview from the Daily Yimiuri.

Camisea Project becomes flashpoint for international environmental politics

The Inter-American Development Bank postponed a decision on the Camisea Project for a second time. This is in part due to a strong lobbying effort by environment groups. See this press release from AmazonWatch, Friends of the Earth and the Institute for Policy Studies.

A Piece of the Amazon Pie: "So, who stands to profit from the Camisea project? None other than familiar Bush and Cheney darlings: Hunt Oil (whose chairman Ray Hunt raised nearly $100,000 for the 2000 Bush campaign), and Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton)." Mother Jones This angle is how the project's opponents are arguing against the huge project, which is already underway. The article links to other sites covering the dispute.

CorpWatch calls it "one of the most destructive projects in the world today." Also see Bush, the Rainforest and a Gas Pipeline to Enrich his Friends

Guzman regains his appetite

Jailed Peru rebels end hunger strike: "They ended the action, at the high-security prison in the Callao naval base near Lima, after consulting their lawyers. The two were confined to their separate cells after refusing to leave a communal courtyard area in protest at what they claimed was the theft of Iparraguirre's diary by prison officers. Excerpts from the diary have been appearing in local papers and seem to indicate that Guzman continues to lead the guerrilla movement from his cell." BBC The prison authorities did not give into Chairman Gonzalo's demands that they lift his solitary confinement.

Monday, August 4

Historical Andean farming technique stir interest

Peru Farmers Revive 'Waru Waru' System: "Canahua said he still sees many of the raised fields being maintained since the CARE program ended in 2001. He is now looking at using them in conjunction with other ancient techniques such as interconnected irrigation lakes called 'qochas' and the Inca-built terraces known as 'andenes' for farming the steep Andean slopes." One of the drawbacks to this agricultural system is that it does not lend itself to mechanization -- i.e. big fields that can be plowed by tractors. But the risks of the "modern" system is that if you get hit by draught, frost or flooding, all your investment can be wiped out. Throughout the Andes, the traditional scheme played off managing multiple micro-niches in the environment, spreading risks across the board and relying on community support. Unfortunately, traditional technology was always in danger of being pushed aside by modern approaches. For the past 20 years, there's been a lot of efforts at rescuing this knowledge, but it's been a tough row to hoe.

Saturday, August 2

Sendero Boss Protests Solitary Confinement

Jailed Peru Rebel Chief On Hunger Strike: "The two prisoners claim guards stole Iparraguirre's diary, which reports say indicated Guzman continues to lead the Shining Path from his cell. Iparraguirre had been the rebel group's second in command. They were captured together in 1992. " Voice of America Abimael Guzman is raising his profile from prison, just as his followers raise cain in the Amazon foothills.

Also see BBC version of the story. I have a section on Sendero Luminoso.

Friday, August 1

Peruvian government wants to link Fujirmori to death squads

Fujimori extradition case revisits Peru's bloody crackdown on guerrillas: "Luis Vargas Valdivia, a special state attorney in the Fujimori case, said that months before the Barrios Altos massacre, Fujimori commended soldiers later accused of belonging to the Colina Group for their actions in the war against the Shining Path insurgency. In 1995, the Fujimori-controlled Congress approved a controversial amnesty law to protect military officers from prosecution for human rights abuses. Although the amnesty covered human rights violations committed since the beginning of the insurgency in 1980, critics argued that the real intent was to free 11 Colina Group members convicted for the La Cantuta killings. " MSNBC / AP To understand what the core of the Peruvian government's extradition petition is, you need to know about the Colina intelligence unit that carried out at least two bloody killings in Lima in the early 1990s. Fujimori has maintained that this was a rogue group within security forces and he had no knowledge of it. But this same rogue group was covered by an amnesty law to protect military officers from prosecution for human rights abuses.

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