Friday, September 21, 2012

Unrest in Peru as Police Kill Protester, Teachers March on Lima

A protest over a mining project in northwest Peru left one civilian dead and four injured, while teachers unions led a march to Lima to demand payrises.

Local people gathered to block a road to Pierina gold mine in the region of Ancash, northwest Peru, on Wednesday in protest over the lack of drinking water, as EFE reports. Some 150 members of the Marinayoc community blocked the access road and broke the entrance gate to the property, which is run by a local subsidiary of Canada's Barrick Gold.

They clashed with police assigned to guard the mine. Protest leader Alfredo Castromonte told La Republica that the police attacked them when the protesters had gone to seek if they could get water from a nearby spring. He said that the mine had dried up their springs and waterholes, and that the company had not built a promised reservoir.

The dead man has been identified as a 55-year-old campesino named Nemesio Poma Rosales, who was hit in the neck by a bullet. His daughter told La Republica that her father was still alive when he was carried to the mine post, but that he did not receive medical attention and died. Another protester was also hit by a bullet, while the other injured were struck by batons or inhaled tear gas. Three police were injured after being hit by rocks, reports La Republica.

Local people say that a water treatment plant it set up is providing contaminated water, but representatives of the company told RPP that the water had been certified as safe, and that the local communities simply did not trust it.

Also on Wednesday, thousands of teachers marched on Lima, while many doctors went on strike. Both groups want their pay doubled. Reuters describes the strikes as putting new pressure on President Ollanta Humala, bringing the social unrest from the remote countryside to his doorstep.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch called on the government to limit the use of force against protesters, and said that 15 people had been killed in the first year of Humala’s presidency. It said that the shooting of four protesters in Cajamarca in July appeared to be the result of "unlawful use of lethal force by the security forces."

News Briefs

  • The Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz has released a report on the failed Fast and Furious anti-arms trafficking operation. The report criticizes the lack of oversight of the scheme, and said that mid-level officials should have kept Attorney General Eric Holder informed, as the Washington Post reports. He found no evidence that Holder knew of the controversial program before it was shut down in 2011. The New York Times says that Democrats and Republicans are divided on whether the report means that Congress can bring its investigation of the episode to an end.
  • Mexico has sent some 1,000 troops to the city of Nezahualcoyotl, outside Mexico City, after a state legislator was murdered there on Sunday, reports the Wall Street Jounal. Along with local and federal police, they will patrol and set up roadblocks. Some 500 extra police were sent to the city earlier this month after what the authorities said were false rumors spread on social networks about armed groups roaming the streets, as InSight Crime reported. The WSJ says that it is a sign the drug war is moving closer to Mexico’s capital.
  • The Economist has a lengthy report on the state of prisons in Latin America, detailing overcrowding, control by gangs, and the regular killings of inmates in countries such as Venezuela, Honduras and Brazil. It also says, however, that there are some positive examples of prison reform in the region. In the Dominican Republic, civilian prison officers are being recruited with the offer of salaries several times higher than before, and prisoners have been given compulsory education and help to find work on their release. Bloggings by Boz comments, however, that reform does not solve a fundamental problem for the region: “There is almost no way the region can afford to judicially process and imprison every criminal in Latin America today.”
  • A Colombian judge has repealed the acquittal of a FARC guerrilla over the murder of three US citizens in Colombia in 1999, reports the AP. Caceres Macon, alias “El Piloso” was found not guilty in a 2008 trial of kidnapping and killing the three indigenous activists, whose bodies were found over the border in Venezuela. Two other guerrillas have been convicted in the case, having apparently mistaken the activists for spies.
  • Also in Mexico, police searching for fugitives from a mass breakout in a prison close to the US border killed three gunmen in Piedras Blancas, reports the AP. Some 129 inmates escaped, and state security officials said the breakout was likely organized by the Zetas.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, a new unit of the elite pacifying police force (UPP) has been inaugurated in the favela of Rocinha, reports the AFP. Some 700 officers will patrol the neighborhood, in an effort to cement state presence following an invasion by the security forces in November. The officers will be supported by some 100 security cameras which are due to be installed, as R7 reports. A police officer was shot dead while on patrol in Rocinha less than a week before Thursday’s inauguration. 
  • The Christian Science Monitor reports on the Peruvian government’s efforts against a political movement linked to the Shining Path guerrilla group. Movadef has been banned from registering as a political party, and a proposed law would make membership illegal by criminalizing the denial or minimization of terrorist acts carried out during the conflict.
  • Venezuela Politics and Human Rights has a post on the housing situation in Venezuela, looking at the barrio of Catia in Caracas. It points out that even though many residents have not benefited from the Chavez government’s housing programs, they will still vote for him in the October elections because they continue to believe in his political project, and consider that their lives today are better than before he came to power.
  • A man convicted of murdering DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar in 1985, in a case which helped lead to the break up of Mexico’s powerful Guadalajara Cartel, has died in a Florida prison aged 82. Ruben Zuno Arce was one of those who tortured and killed Camarena, who had been working as an undercover agent in Mexico, along with his pilot, reports the NYT.
  • The AP reports on a new mandatory program in Jamaica to teach students about the work and life of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, noting that it avoids mention of his support for racial separation, which led him to meet with the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

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