Speaking before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last week, petitioning organizations from Peru formally highlighted problems within Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)—an agency established in 2001 to address human rights abuses committed during the internal conflict of the 1980s and 1990s.
The TRC was created after the fall of President Alberto Fujimori in order to investigate crimes committed by both the guerrilla groups Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement—MRTA), as well as by government forces. The TRC focuses on massacres, terrorism, forced disappearances, violence, and human rights abuses committed during the armed conflict.
While petitioners and members of the Commission recognized last week that concrete advances have been made since the TRC’s inception, they agreed that significant challenges remain and hope to generate a set of specific actions to be taken in four main areas: the judicial process, missing and disappeared persons, the current state of reparations for victims, and historic memory.
Representatives from the Instituto de Defensa Legal (Institute of Legal Defense—IDL) and the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Human Rights Coordinator—CNDDHH) described problems within the TRC budget, inadequate reparations for victims and the sluggish speed of human rights court cases in Peru.
On October 21, Indian oil and gas firm ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) was among 11 foreign companies in Rio de Janiero to bid for Brazil’s latest oil find, the Libra oil field.
The winning consortium was made up of a Sino-European mix of four companies, with Brazil’s Petrobras holding the majority stake. Although OVL didn’t make the final cut, its presence in the bidding process points to India’s growing energy equation with Latin America, as does the recent success of Indian oil majors in acquiring large contracts in Latin America.
Eight Indian companies—OVL, Reliance Industries, Essar Oil, BPCL, Oil India, Videocon Industries, Assam Company, and Indian Oil Corporation—are part of 12 joint ventures in Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Peru. Their approach is pragmatic: invest substantial capital with state-run oil companies and use local expertise.
In Venezuela and Brazil, the national oil companies—PDVSA and Petrobras, respectively—get their governments’ support in procuring funding and project clearances, which further facilitates the joint ventures. As a result of the enhanced trade in oil from these countries to refineries at home, India’s total oil imports from Latin America increased from 4.5 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2012-13.
Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, released a public statement on Monday in support of a bill that would legalize same-sex unions in Peru. The statement, titled “Yes to equality,” was published in the main Peruvian newspapers such as El Comercio, La República, Perú21 and Diario 26 and calls for “equal rights for all Peruvians, the inclusion of all the sectors of society, and for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Llosa was also joined by writer Santiago Roncagliolo and the president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Diego García Sayán.
The statement comes less than a month after independent Legislator Carlos Bruce introduced the bill to legalize same-sex unions. According to Bruce, “by failing to recognize same-sex couples, the Peruvian government is perpetuating discrimination and violating Article 2 of the Constitution.” The initiative was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and some political figures who believe that same-sex unions should not be recognized by the law. The bill has not yet been discussed by the Congress.
According to a national poll by the firm GFK released on Sunday, 65 percent of Peruvian citizens oppose the bill, while 26 percent are in favor. The poll revealed that the greatest opposition to the project comes from men between 40 and 70 years old. For Harvard professor Steven Levitsky, the passage of same-sex unions in Peru is only a matter of time because just like women’s rights and minority rights, marriage equality is accepted as a basic right in the Western world. “In 1996, only 27 percent of Americans supported gay marriage; now 54 percent is in favor. Change is coming to Peru,” he said.
BOGOTA – It is somewhat ironic that Douglas MacArthur’s famous observation that “old soldiers never die, they just fade away” is also an apt description of the life cycle of terrorist organizations. At least, it certainly applies to the Shining Path organization.
Casual observers of South America might be surprised to discover that the Shining Path is still around. Yet the Maoist insurgent group, which in the 1980s and 1990s waged a bloody guerrilla war against the Peruvian government, is still kicking. In its heyday, Shining Path controlled large swathes of Peru´s central highlands and perpetrated terrorist attacks in the capital city of Lima. Today, the group is a shadow of its former self; effectively confined to the Ene, Apurímac and Mantaro river valleys in the southeast of the country, where it wages a guerrilla war against Peruvian security forces, traffics drugs and extorts companies operating in the area.
Last month, Peruvian security forces struck a heavy blow. A military operation north of the city of Ayacucho killed three Shining Path members, including two high-profile leaders: Martin Quispe Palomino (alias “Gabriel”) and Alejandro Borda Casafranca (alias “Alipio”).
The deaths will have a direct impact on the group´s operational capacity and its ability to maintain its current sources of revenue. Both Gabriel and Alipio are believed to have led extortion attempts targeting local and foreign businesses operating in southern Peru, including the April 2012 abduction of 36 workers on the Camisea gas pipeline. Furthermore, Gabriel reportedly spearheaded the group´s expanded involvement in the drug trade, opening new trafficking routes to the northern jungle region of Loreto and the southern border with Bolivia.
Thousands of nurses and doctors are on strike in Lima, Peru, today as part of a 48-hour protest that began yesterday sparked by concerns over the need to improve health care conditions and increase medical salaries. Those on strike include approximately 9,000 members of the medical staff from the country’s national insurance coverage program, El Seguro Social de Salud del Perú (Social Health Insurance of Peru – EsSalud), which provides health services to about 20 percent of Peruvians through national EsSalud hospitals and facilities.
Zoila Cotrina, a labor union leader who represents health ministry employees, met with ministry authorities yesterday hoping to reach an agreement that would lift the protest. This morning, however, she said the dialogue was, "not what we expected.”
The protest has caused a shutdown of EsSalud facilities leaving emergency rooms the only option for those needing services. Local media estimates that 9 million Peruvians will not be able to rely on medical care as a result of the strike, which comes in the midst of one of Peru’s coldest winters. Already, the low temperatures, combined with the H1N1 flu virus, have claimed the lives of 44 people.
In the midst of a deepening political crisis, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala gave his second Independence Day speech on Sunday. But for the first time since the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, widespread protests and mobilizations against the government are gaining national momentum.
On Saturday, thousands of citizens gathered in the historical center of Lima. Protest organizers planned to march to Congress, but were blocked by the police, who repelled the crowds with tear gas and water cannons. It was the third massive mobilization in Lima in two weeks.
Public indignation broke out after the media outlet Perú21 published audio transcripts of under-the-table arrangements by congressmen from different parties to divvy up political appointments to the Constitutional Court and the Central Bank as well as the position of Human Rights Ombudsman.
Although the officials resigned and Congress annulled the appointments, public anger has not subsided. The scandal provided a spark for dissatisfaction with the Humala administration, who was elected in 2011 with promises of economic growth, social inclusion and “la gran transformación”—a great transformation of politics in Peru.
With two years in office complete, many of Humala’s promises have fallen short.
“The elections scandal was the straw that broke the camel's back,” said Carlos Gastelumendi, from the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (National Coordinator of Human Rights—CNDDHH). “Today we are not all protesting for the same reasons, but the elections made us all reflect.”
“There are several topics that are causing the youth to organize and protest,” said Sigrid Bazan, a former president of the student federation at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP). According to Bazan, protesters oppose the new Ley Universitaria (University Law) and the passage of a new code that puts the onus of sex education on parents, rather than schools and the state.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala swore in three new female Cabinet ministers on Wednesday, giving the Cabinet an equal number of male and female ministers for the first time in Peru’s history. Peru’s Cabinet now comprises nine female ministers out of a total of 18.
The three new ministers include Mónica Rubio, a former social protection specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), who replaced Carolina Trivelli as minister of development and social inclusion; Magali Silva, the former vice minister of production, who replaced José Luis Silva as minister of foreign commerce and trade; and Diana Alvarez Calderón, an advisor in the municipality of Miraflores and a former secretary general at the Ministry of Justice, who replaced Luis Peirano as minster of culture. All three of the ministers who were replaced cited personal reasons for stepping down.
Humala made these new appointments just days before he will mark the completion of his second year in office on July 28. In Peru’s 2011 presidential election, Humala ran on a platform of economic growth coupled with social inclusion and, among other issues, pledged to support greater equality for women.
The Cabinet’s other female ministers are Minister of Justice Eda Adriana Rivas, Minister of Education Patricia Salas, Minister of Health Midori de Habich, Minister of Labor and Employment Teresa Laos, Minister of Production Gladys Triveño, and Minister of Women and Human Development Ana Jara.
A novel political endeavor took place earlier last month in Lima, as just over 17,000 citizens participated in the city’s first consulta ciudadana virtual (virtual citizen consultation) as part of the municipality’s participatory budgeting (PB) process. Across the city, residents used a new online system to vote in the consulta. Although those who participated represent a tiny proportion of the sprawling capital’s population, the consulta is still an impressive innovation with the potential to strengthen public accountability.
Last month’s exercise also highlights the progress achieved by the administration of center-left Mayor Susana Villarán as well as the patchy state of public participation across the country.
Peru has an extensive legal framework for participatory budgeting. The country saw a wave of decentralization reforms enacted in 2002 and 2003, including a mandate that all subnational governments develop their capital investment budget in consultation with civil society. Representatives of NGOs and civic associations are invited to take part in planning meetings as “participating agents” to propose and vote on capital investment projects of social interest.
By inviting individual citizens to vote, Lima’s consulta virtual represents a bold step toward expanding participation beyond the relatively closed sphere of participating agents. The process encourages even greater participation than the legal mandate specifies, leveraging information technologies to reach individual “vecinos desorganizados,” and considering their votes (along with technical evaluations and the votes of participating agents) in determining which projects to fund.
“Lima is much more advanced than anywhere else in the country,” said Stephanie McNulty, a political scientist who has studied participatory reforms in Peru. “The mayor’s office has really embraced this process.”
Outside the capital, however, PB is not moving forward so swiftly. Low administrative capacity at the subnational level means that many proposals approved by the PB process have yet to be executed. If this gap between participatory process and concrete accomplishments persists, it will significantly undercut participatory budgeting. Already, policy analysts in Lima are already warning of “participation fatigue.”
On his first official trip to the United States since his 2011 election, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala is meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House today. According to a Peruvian government press release, Humala’s three-day visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and mutual cooperation between the countries—particularly in the areas of education, capacity building, support to small businesses, and technology.
Humala will also hold private meetings with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Peruvian president is traveling with Foreign Minister Eva Rivas, Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano, and Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister José Luis Silva Martinot.
Humala is scheduled to give a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce later today. On Wednesday, he will travel to Boston to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he will sign several cooperation agreements with the university.
Humala is the second Latin American president to visit the White House in a month, following Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s visit on June 4. Obama and Piñera discussed opportunities for U.S.-Chile cooperation in areas such as economic growth and job creation, transparency, human rights, and the rule of law.
Obama also met recently with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and other regional leaders during his trip to Central America in early May. Read AQ’s exclusive interview with President Obama about his trip to Mexico and Costa Rica here.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Peru was plagued by a wave of terrorism mainly attributed to the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group. In their attempt to violently overthrow the government, guerillas carried out assassinations, bombings and brutal massacres.
The Peruvian government reacted by suspending constitutional rights and mobilizing its intelligence agencies as paramilitary groups massacred villagers suspected of supporting the Shining Path. Now, 20 years after the Shining Path's power waned with the arrest of its founder, Abimael Guzmán in 1992, some Peruvians fear that a new iteration of the group has risen up.
The Movimiento Por Amnistia y Derechos Fundamentales (Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights—Movadef) was founded in 2009 by lawyers for Abimael Guzmán and is considered a political arm of the Shining Path. According to its website, the group aims to create political transformation through promoting workers' rights. But Movadef is motivated largely by its goal of securing the release of Guzmán, as well as other first-generation guerrilla leaders who are currently serving life sentences in prison. The group claims that providing amnesty to Shining Path leaders will lead to national healing and reconciliation.
Movadef has expanded rapidly in recent months, with supporters popping up from Argentina to Chile. Many Peruvians remain shocked by the group’s ability to gain support in universities and the teachers' union, and to appeal so easily to the nation’s youth. Although Peru's economy is one of the fastest-growing in Latin America, residents point out that stark inequalities still exist. Some suggest that Movadef is more organized and accessible than the government's own agencies, many of which are notoriously inefficient.