Tag Archive | "peru"

Ecuador Signs Free Trade Agreement with European Union

Ecuador's bananas are excluded from the deal

Ecuador’s bananas are excluded from the deal

After four years of negotiations, Ecuador has joined the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union, Colombia, and Peru. The accord means that Ecuadorian exports will enter the EU without duties, providing the Andean nation with a new market of 500m inhabitants.

Ecuador’s foreign trade minister, Francisco Rivadeneira, called the agreement “ambitious”.

He said: “After nearly four years of work, today we finally closed a balanced accord with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, minimises costs, respects the country’s development model, and protects our sensitive sectors.”

President Rafael Correa announced on Monday that an agreement could be signed this week, underscoring that the country had negotiated “higher thresholds” than its neighbours, and adding that the most difficult negotiations had been over agricultural produce. Bananas, one of the country’s biggest exports, are excluded from the deal.

The latest deal means Ecuador now enjoys free trade with 28 more nations, adding to the country’s previous agreements with China, India, Russia, and most of its South American neighbours.

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Brazil: Uncontacted Tribe Displaced by Amazon Logging

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008. Photo courtesy of Survival International. ©Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008. Photo courtesy of Survival International. ©Gleison Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

An uncontacted tribe living in the Amazon has emerged from the rainforest in Brazil near the Peruvian border and made contact with a settled indigenous community.

The news comes just days after FUNAI, Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department, and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, warned of the serious risk of such an incident, in light of the failure of the Peruvian authorities to stop rampant illegal logging on its side of the border.

The group had been coming increasingly close to the settled Asháninka who live along the Río Envira in the Brazilian state of Acre, and news emerged this week that the group had made contact with the Asháninka on Sunday.

A specialist FUNAI team is in the area to provide help to the newly-contacted group, and a medical unit has been flown in to treat possible epidemics of common respiratory and other diseases to which isolated indigenous groups lack immunity.

Nixiwaka Yawanawá, who is from Brazil’s Acre state and who joined Survival to speak out for indigenous rights said: “I am from the same area as they are. It is very worrying that my relatives are at risk of disappearing. It shows the injustice that we face today. They are even more vulnerable because they can’t communicate with the authorities. Both governments must act now to protect and to stop a disaster against my people.”

As a result of aerial and land surveys, the Brazilian government has so far identified 77 uncontacted peoples, many of which only have a few dozen people remaining. One tribe in Rondônia state has only one lone man; known as ‘the Last of his Tribe’, who resists all attempts at contact. It is believed that many have stopped having children because they are constantly fleeing loggers and other intruders. The uncontacted Awá, who are the Earth’s most threatened tribe, hunt monkey and other game at night, in order to remain hidden.

According to Survival, introduced diseases are the biggest killer of isolated tribal people, who have not developed immunity to viruses such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox that most other societies have been in contact with for hundreds of years.

In Peru, more than 50% of the previously-uncontacted Nahua tribe were wiped out following oil exploration on their land in the early 1980s, and the same tragedy engulfed the Murunahua in the mid-1990s, after being forcibly contacted by illegal mahogany loggers.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Both Peru and Brazil gave assurances to stop the illegal logging and drug trafficking which are pushing uncontacted Indians into new areas. They’ve failed. The traffickers even took over a government installation meant to monitor their behaviour. The uncontacted Indians now face the same genocidal risk from disease and violence which has characterised the invasion and occupation of the Americas over the last five centuries. No one has the right to destroy these Indians.”



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Peru: Bodies of 800 Indigenous People Found in Mass Grave

Around 5000 Asháninka are believed to have been killed during the Shining Path insurgency (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Around 6,000 Asháninka are believed to have been killed during the Shining Path insurgency (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The largest mass grave in Peru has been uncovered by a team of government investigators, in the ancestral land of the Asháninka in the country’s central Amazon region.

The grave contains the remains of around 800 people, the majority believed to be Asháninka and Matsigenka Indians, who were killed during the violent conflict between Shining Path guerrillas and counter-insurgency forces in the 1980s.

Bodies from several other mass graves are currently being exhumed in the region.

Around 70,000 people are estimated to have died or disappeared during the Shining Path insurgency, which started in 1980. The most violent period lasted for just over a decade, until the capture of guerrilla leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 10,000 Asháninka were displaced, 6,000 died, and 5,000 were taken captive by the Shining Path during this time. Between 30 and 40 Asháninka communities disappeared as a result of the conflict.

The Asháninka’s population is estimated to be between 25,000 and 45,000, making them the second largest indigenous group living in Peru’s Amazon, although a few hundred live across the border in the Brazilian state of Arce.

Today, their land is under threat from oil and gas projects, hydroelectric dams, drug trafficking and deforestation. Asháninka leader Ruth Buendía was this year presented with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work against the Pakitzapango Dam. The dam was one of six hydroelectric projects planned under an energy agreement between Brazil and Peru, and would have forced thousands of Asháninka from their homes, but in 2011, Buendía’s organisation CARE succeeded in getting the dam suspended through legal action.

A few small groups of Shining Path rebels remain active, mostly confined to the Ene and Apurimac rivers, which form part of the Asháninka’s homeland.



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Peru: Qhapaq Nan Inca Road System given World Heritage Status

The Inca road system covered 30,000km over six countries

The Inca road system covered 30,000km over six countries

UNESCO has granted World Heritage status to a 600-year-old road system built by the Inca Empire, which goes through six South American countries. The UN cultural body described the system as an “engineering wonder” that must be restored and preserved.

The Qhapaq Nan roads were built over hundreds of years, and traverse 30,000km across six South American countries, linking the Incan capital Cusco to the outposts of the empire, from Colombia to Argentina and Chile, across Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. The most famous section of the road is the 43km Inca Trail, walked by thousands of tourists each year to reach the ancient city of Machu Picchu, itself a World Heritage site.

The road system was also used by the Spanish conquistadores, although most of the route has since deteriorated or become overgrown.

“The Qhapaq Nan by its sheer scale and quality of the road is a unique achievement of engineering skills. It demonstrates mastery in engineering technology,” Unesco said in a statement.

The road, which covers diverse terrain from the Andean plateau to rainforest and deserts, will now be eligible for restoration funds.

To support the proposal, members of the city government from the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca walked 20km of the road network on Saturday morning.

The Qhapaq Nan roads are one of dozens of new World Heritage sites that UNESCO is considering during their 38th session in Doha, Qatar, which ends on Wednesday.



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Peru: Trial Opens over 2009 ‘Baguazo’

Presidents Alan García and George W. Bush. The clashes erupted as a result of laws passed as part of the free trade agreement between the US and Peru (photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Presidents Alan García and George W. Bush. The clashes erupted as a result of laws passed as part of the free trade agreement between the US and Peru (photo: Wikipedia Commons)

The trial started today over the so-called ‘Baguazo’, a 2009 political crisis that took place in the region of Bagua in the north-Peruvian Amazon, which led to dozens of deaths and one disappearance.

The crisis resulted from on-going opposition to oil development in the rainforest, which was opened up to private investment as part of the US-Peruvian Free Trade Agreement. Local indigenous groups, led the Peruvian Jungle Interethnic Development Association (AIDESEP), by a coalition of indigenous organisations, lead the resistance movement to exploitation of the rainforest.

Things culminated when, after a year of opposition and advocacy, and over two months of civil disobedience, in June 2009 the government of then-president Alan García suspended civil liberties, declared a state of emergency, and sent in the police and military to quash the protests. This intervention, referred to as the ‘Baguazo’, resulted in two days of bloody confrontations in which 23 soldiers and estimates of 30 indigenous people, including three children, were killed. Police were accused of burning bodies in an attempt to hide the actual death toll, and still the official death toll of the indigenous is put at ten.

The 53 defendants include 23 awajún-wampi people, who face charges of murder, disturbing the peace, and stealing weapons and ammunition from the armed forces, charges that carry from six years to life imprisonment.


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Peru: Incidents Between Protesting Doctors and Police

Peruvian doctors, who are on the second day of a strike, clashed with police in Lima today.

The incidents occurred near the Edgardo Rebagliati Hospital, the country’s largest, when the police attempted to block the protesters from marching down the Domingo Cueto avenue. Images from the local television showed that doctors were pushed and beaten by the police, as they shouted abuse at them. Later on, the police set up fences around the hospital and used tear gas to disperse the protest.

Thousands of doctors around the country are taking part in an indefinite strike, demanding an agreement they signed with the government for a wage increase be carried out. “In 2012 we signed an agreement which says they were supposed to increase our wages by 2,500 soles (US$900). That has never happened,” said union representative Jesús Bonilla. They are also demanding bonuses for special situations, such as for workers in border areas. Bonilla also stated that doctors were not invited to participate in recent reforms to the health system.

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Mexico: Amnesty Warns of ‘Critical’ Human Rights Situation

Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, at launch of Stop Torture Campaign (photo courtesy of Amnesty International)

Amnesty International today published a letter sent to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressing concern over the ‘critical situation’ for human rights in the country.

“It is vital that measures are taken to tackle current patterns of disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests, as well as the regular attacks against those supporting human rights, journalists, migrants, and women,” said the letter, which was signed by Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty. It also urged an end to impunity by ensuring that any members of the government of armed forces involves in these crime be swiftly handed over to the judiciary.

The organisation said it had also handed the president 170,000 signatures collected over the last year from people demanding concrete action to deal with these problems.

The letter was sent to coincide with Amnesty International’s global report on the use of torture, in which Mexico was one of five countries singled out as where torture is “rife”.

According to the report: “The use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by military and police forces remains widespread throughout Mexico, with impunity rife for the perpetrators.”

According to Amnesty’s global survey, at least 44% of respondents from 21 countries said they feared torture if taken into custody. In Mexico, that rate stood at 64%.

Other Latin American countries included in the survey were Brazil, where 80% of respondents said they would not feel safe from torture if arrested, Peru (54%), Argentina (49%), and Chile which reported the lowest regional figure of 30%.

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Latin America News Roundup: 25th April 2014

President Santos speaks before the Constitutional Court (photo:  Juan Pablo Bello - SIG)

President Santos speaks before the Constitutional Court (photo: Juan Pablo Bello – SIG)

Court Declares Colombia’s Membership in Pacific Alliance ‘Unconstitutional’: The Constitutional Court of Colombia has declared law 1628, which approves the country’s entrance into the Pacific Alliance, unconstitutional. The court rules the law, which was sanctioned last year, was missing two articles when it was sent to Congress to vote on, making the process “irreparably flawed”. According to the ruling, Colombia’s membership of the trade bloc will be suspended until the government sends another, complete bill to be approved by Congress. Foreign Trade Minister Santiago Rojas said the decision will not affect existing commercial relations with the other members of the bloc, only the law governing Colombia’s integration into the alliance. The Pacific Alliance was formally created by Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Mexico in June 2012. Since then, the countries have removed visa restrictions for travel within member states and, in February 2014, signed a deal to eliminate trade tariffs on 92% of products. At the time, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc, called the members the region’s “dream team”.

Peru – Indigenous Groups Occupy Country’s Biggest Oil Field: Indigenous communities have occupied Bloque 1-AB, the country’s largest oil field, demanding that a clean up operation of the field’s contamination begin. Carlos Saudí, president of the Federation of Native Communities of the Río Corrientes (Feconaco), which is leading the study, said: “We demand the presence of a government commission as a part of the population of the Río Corrientes basin is contaminated by lead and heavy metals, as proven by various studies.” Yesterday he confirmed to the press that the occupation, which began on Monday, would continue until a solution was found to the problem. Bloque 1-AB is situated in the country’s north-west Amazon region, close to the border with Peru, and has been running for 40 years, under the operation of Argentina’s Pluspetrol since 2001. When Pluspetrol took control of the field, the government asked that the multinational clean up of over 100 sites contaminated by the previous contractors, something that has not yet been done. Last year, Peruvian authorities confirmed a state of emergency in the region after discovering high levels of lead, barium and other minerals in areas around the site, including the waterways. But local residents say that neither Pluspetrol nor the government have done anything about the situation. As a result of the blockade, the field’s output has halved to 17,000 barrels a day.

Military personnel protest in La Paz (photo: AFP/Aizar RALDES/Télam/aa)

Military personnel protest in La Paz (photo: AFP/Aizar RALDES/Télam/aa)

Bolivia – Tension over Military Protests: Military leadership dismissed 702 soldiers who took part in recent protests against discrimination in the Armed Forces. The Military High Command accused the protesting soldiers of attempting a coup d’êtat, and justified the decision by stating that “discrimination is no excuse for sedition and for promoting an attempted coup.” The soldiers, from across the three armed forces, were dismissed for “deliberately missing work, committing acts of sedition, mutiny, political actions, and collectively violating the dignity and honour of the Armed Forces.” Hundreds of low-ranking soldiers marched through the streets of several Bolivian cities as part of a protest, which also included strikes and hunger strikes, demanding the “decolonisation of the Armed Forces”. This would entail a reform of the Organic Armed Forces Law to eliminate discrimination throughout the military hierarchy and to promote equal treatment and professionalisation for non-commissioned officers.

Non-commissioned in the Bolivian Armed Forces are mostly of indigenous background, unlike the majority of officers. Protesters were joined by the ‘Red Ponchos’, an indigenous aymara militia, whilst the Bolivian Workers’ Central union (COB) and other social organisations rejected their demands, denouncing an infiltration of the protest by right-wing elements.

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Latin America News Roundup: 23rd April 2014

Peru – Journalist Attacked at his Home: A new attack against a Peruvian journalist took place on Tuesday in the coastal town of Barranca, north of Lima. In the early hours of Tuesday, a bomb exploded at the door of journalist Yofré López Sifuentes’ house. López Sifuentes is the director of a radio show, a magazine, and a website. The explosion wounded the mother and step-father of the journalist and destroyed windows in nearby houses. “This attack I guess is due to the journalistic work we’re doing. It seems like they want to silence us,” said López Sifuentes. In the last few months, the journalist denounced the alleged pollution created by sugar companies in his city as well as a series of wrongdoings by the local authorities. This has led him to believe there could be political reasons behind the attack. López Sifuentes, as well as being a journalist, is an activist with the Land and Freedom movement in Barranca. Some months ago, another member of Land and Freedom, Alfredo Palacios, also suffered an attack when a bomb was placed in the school where he works. Story courtesy of Agencia Púlsar.

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro (Photo: Wikipedia)

Colombia – Court Orders Bogotá Mayor Be Reinstated: A Colombian court ordered President Juan Manuel Santos to reinstate deposed Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro. Last month, President Santos signed a decree officially removing Petro, who had been dismissed by the country’s Inspector General, despite a ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in favour of the mayor. Yesterday, the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá interpreted that IACHR rulings are binding, and gave the president 48 hours to reinstate Petro. Santos complied with the court ruling earlier today, saying: “I have signed the decree reinstating mayor Gustavo Petro in his post. I am simply complying with the law, I don’t have a choice. Some may like it and some may not, but my obligation is to abide by the law and whatever the judges say.” Susana Muhamad, the town hall’s general secretary, stated that “mayor Petro has begun to give instructions about administrative issues that he wants us to have ready once he arrives in the town hall.” He is expected to meet political activists today, and to hold a recall referendum before the end of June.

Brazil – One Dead in Protest: A man was shot dead yesterday during a protest at the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela in Rio de Janeiro. Favela residents were protesting the death of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a 25-year old dancer at a TV show, who died during a drug raid on Monday night. Pereira was found dead inside a school; his friends claim he was beaten to death by police after being mistaken for a drug dealer, whilst police claim he died “after a fall”. In protest for Pereira’s death, favela residents burnt tires and caused explosions that could be heard in neighbouring areas. In response, the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) entered the favela after blocking access to it, and a confrontation between the UPP and alleged drug trafficking gangs ensued. The victim, a man of around 30, was shot in the head. The Pavão-Pavãozinho favela is under police control since 2009, as part of the ‘pacification’ policy carried out by the Rio de Janeiro government in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.


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Latin America News Roundup: 22nd April 2014

Memorial for Gabriel García Márquez in Mexico City (photo: Presidency of Colombia)

Memorial for Gabriel García Márquez in Mexico City (photo: Presidency of Colombia)

Colombia Bids Farewell to Gabriel García Márquez: Colombian president, Manuel Santos, is leading a memorial service for Gabriel García Márquez in Bogotá today. Nobel laureate García Márquez, one of Latin America’s most famous writers, died last Thursday, aged 87. The memorial, which began at midday at the city’s main cathedral, includes a performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the National Symphonic Orchestra and is being broadcast live on state television and radio. Tomorrow, passages from García Márquez’s novella ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’ will be read aloud in parks, libraries and schools across Colombia. Yesterday, Santos and Mexican leader Enrique Peña Nieto, participated in another memorial service held in the Centro Cultural de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, where the author lived. “Gabriel García Márquez will live on in his books and texts, but more than anything, he will live for ever in the hopes of humanity,” declared Santos. Peña Nieto added that García Márquez “the greatest Latin American novelist of all time”.

Peru – Teachers Strike Over Salary Dispute: Public sector teachers began a 24-hour strike today in protest at unpaid benefits and wages. Around 350,000 members of the State Teachers’ Union (Sutep) joined the strike action, claiming the government had not fulfilled promises made 18 months earlier over benefits. Among the complaints was the government’s offer of a 20% bonus on the base salary for time spent preparing classes – the unions claim that they had been pledged 30%. Sutep leader Hamer Villena said the union would consider calling an indefinite strike if it did not receive answers from the government. However, Education Minister Jaime Saavedra called the strike “irresponsible”, though confirmed that the teachers taking part would not face a wage deduction as a result. The minister said he was surprised by Sutep’s actions, claiming that negotiations to resolve disputes over teachers’ benefit were ongoing. “Abandoning their responsibilities and their jobs is a terrible example for teachers to be giving to our youngsters,” said Saavedra.

Bolivia – Government and Cooperatives Reach Deal on Mining Law: The Bolivian government and mining cooperatives reached an agreement over the contested articles of a new mining law last night, according to Government Minister Carlos Romero. As per the revised text, mining cooperatives will be able enter into contracts with private companies by forming ‘mixed companies’ with the state through the Bolivian Mining Corporation (Comibol). The law will also be modified to allow cooperatives to re-negotiate their existing contracts with private mining companies. Alejandro Santos, president of the Federation of Mining Cooperatives in Bolivia (Fencomin), said the revisions marked a “great advance” in the debate over the new mining law, adding that the organisation hoped to confirm the agreements with President Evo Morales this week. The conflict over the new mining law was deepened at the end of March after protests turned violent, leaving two people dead and prompting the government to suspend a Senate debate on the bill. The independent mining sector, made up of approximately 100,000 miners, is a traditional ally of the Bolivian government.

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