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Obituary: Javier Diez Canseco
05 May 2013
It is with profound grief that we learn of the death of Javier Diez Canseco. As many will know, Javier has been battling against a virulent cancer for the last three months.
Few in Peruvian public life have been so consistent in their support for human rights and democratic values as Javier. He has pursued such issues with a dogged determination that is not common among politicians. He combined strong political convictions with a spirit of genuine personal humanity.
Not only was he one of the most important leaders of the Peruvian left for more than 30 years, but also a major figure on the Latin American left more broadly.
He was first elected to public office in 1978 as a member of the Constituent Assembly, having risen to prominence as a student leader in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a member of Congress, albeit with short gaps, ever since then.
In the 1980s he was one of the main pillars of the Izquierda Unida (United Left) as leader of the Partido Unificado Mariateguista (PUM). In the 1990s, he was one of the most prominent and persistent critics of the Fujimori regime from its earliest days. When Peru returned to democracy in 2001, he was one of those who sought to investigate the corruption and other criminal activity that characterised the cronyism of the Fujimori era. As leader of the Socialist Party (PS), he struggled to ensure that democracy actually led to improvements in the lives of ordinary Peruvians.
He was re-elected as a member of Congress in the 2011 elections, supporting the presidential candidacy of Ollanta Humala. However, he withdrew his support for Humala in late 2011 after the latter tilted away from the pro-poor platform on which he had been elected. Partly as a consequence, members of Humala’s PNP supported Javier’s suspension last year on trumped-up charges of conflicts of interest. This suspension hit Javier hard.
Javier was an enthusiastic supporter of internationalism, and a key participant in the Foro de Sao Paulo. He was deeply involved in human rights advocacy at the global level, not least with respect to human rights violations in Peru itself. In particular he took up issues, such as improving conditions for those with physical handicaps, which others ignored but which he (as a polio sufferer) had experienced himself.
He was a good friend of the Peru Support Group. He spoke on PSG platforms on several occasions, including at the PSG Annual Conference in Kingston-on-Thames in 2010 and at the Institute for the Study of the Americas in 2011. Javier Diez Canseco will be profoundly missed by his family and friends, as well as by Peru and the wider human rights community globally.
Warning on 'police privatisation' in Peru
28 March 2013
Relations between the police and private companies are putting human rights at risk, according to leading civil society figures.
Agreements signed between the police and extractive companies are effectively “privatising the police”, said Rocío Silva Santisteban of the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, at a session of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights on 11 March. Such an emphasis on protecting the investments of multinational corporations is linked to Peru’s development model, which relies on exporting raw materials, she said.
Her colleague Mar Pérez also criticised the government's excessive declarations of a state of emergency, as in the Conga and Espinar mine conflicts. This has seen “arbitrary detention, torture of activists and journalists, as well as systematic abuse of the use of force,” she said.
Meanwhile, the government has faced intense pressure for failing to deal with citizens’ lack of safety, with national police chief Raúl Salazar Salazar driven to resign in early March. According to figures published by the Instituto de Defensa Legal, only 4.2 per cent of Peru's adult population say they are satisfied with the security services in their community and crime is considered the top problem facing the country.
In early March, the government submitted proposed changes to the penal code to Congress. The measures aim to improve the efficiency of cooperation between the police and Ministerio Público during investigations. Proposed changes include accepting confessions without the presence of a defendant’s lawyer.
The Congress justice committee is now reviewing 40 legislative proposals to improve security, mainly concerning law enforcement. The committee’s president, Marisol Pérez Tello, said they would not change the underlying problem but would offer “tools that could help”. A plenary session is expected to address the issue in mid-April.
Human Rights Watch flags impunity and new curbs on rights
15 March 2013
New legislation could undermine international human rights standards, according to Human Rights Watch, which also criticised widespread impunity for abuses.
The NGO’s review of Peru in its World Report 2013 warned that some draft legislation put rights at risk. In the context of confrontations between authorities and protesters against mining projects, the report said that proposals being considered by Congress risk undercutting international standards on the use of lethal force. President Humala has lodged objections to the legislative proposals. An ‘anti-terror’ bill also risks criminalising legitimate criticism of judicial decisions, the report said.
The report highlighted problems of impunity. Efforts to prosecute those responsible for abuses committed during the internal armed conflict in the 1980s and 1990s have been “mixed”, with “very limited” progress on cases from before the Fujimori era. Hundreds of cases are pending or have been closed, “partly due to the Ministry of Defense and the army failing to cooperate in providing information essential to identify perpetrators,” the review said.
Journalists have continued to be subject to threats and attacks for criticising provincial authorities, according to the report. A police investigation found that the mayor of Casma, Ancash, had ordered the murder of the critical local TV news director Pedro Alonso Flores. No charges have been brought.
The report also cited two instances of arbitrary detention or mistreatment of human rights workers. In May 2012, police arrested two workers at the Vicariate of Solidarity of Sicuani, a church-based human rights group, as they waited in a car outside a mining camp in Espinar, Cuszo, while lawyer colleagues checked on detainees reportedly held there. A judge found that the arrests were illegal. In June, Defensoría lawyer Genoveva Gómez reported that a large group of police assaulted her when she was trying to access detainees in a police station in Cajamarca.
Human Rights Watch cited figures from the NGO COMISEDH, showing that a third of the 144 victims they were monitoring in 2012 died or suffered permanent physical disabilities as a result of torture.
The report also called for Peru to adopt UN bodies’ recommendations that abortion be legalised in cases of rape, and to clarify the circumstances under which medical abortion is legal.
Minas Conga referendum plans disputed
08 March 2013
Authorities have rejected attempts to mount a referendum on the Conga gold and copper mine in Cajamarca, northern Peru.
Locals in Cajamarca, northern Peru, are concerned about the mine’s potential impacts on water sources. Opposition led to the mine’s suspension in 2011 but in January developer Newmont Mining announced in January that it would spend US$150 million on the Conga project this year. Community groups plan to hold a popular vote in July and have called on the office of the human rights ombudsperson, the Defensoría del Pueblo, to oversee it.
However in a statement, the Defensor Eduardo Vega Luna said that such a role would fall outside his institution’s mandate and would fail to promote dialogue. He also noted that a consultation on Conga had already taken place, although said that the Defensoría “has pointed out that mechanisms for participation in mining projects must be substantially improved.” The public prosecutor also said that a regionally organised referendum would be illegal, as consultation on large-scale projects falls within the remit of the mining ministry.
Delegations from Cajamarca and Cañaris, the scene of recent violent clashes over the planned Cañariaco mine, travelled to Lima on 13 February to ask President Humala and his cabinet to cancel the projects. Cristobal Barrios, president of the San Juan de Cañaris community, demanded the government respect last September’s community vote in which 97 per cent rejected the Cañariaco project. Conga’s opponents hope to gain a similar popular mandate through their planned referendum.
The Cañariaco Norte mine is in the early stages of development by Candente. The Defensor has stated that the new prior consultation law must be enforced for this mine. In a letter to the government, Vega has asked that an investigation be made into whether Candente is properly complying with the law.
Further south, discussion continues on the contributions Xstrata’s Espinar Tintaya-Antapaccay mine should make to the local community.
Legal bid to protect isolated indigenous groups
08 February 2013
Indigenous organisations have announced legal action aimed at halting the expansion of the Camisea gas project in the Peruvian Amazon.
The project would affect the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve, which was established for indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation from the outside world. Campaigners warn that the project puts communities’ livelihoods, culture and health at risk.
The legal proceedings against the government and Argentinian company Pluspetrol were announced in December. They follow an appeal to the United Nations by a coalition of indigenous organisations, AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU and COMARU.
In a letter to President Humala, civil society groups led by the UK-based Forest Peoples Programme said that, if the project goes ahead, the government would be breaching domestic and international legal obligations and “presiding over a development project whose consequences for some of Peru’s most vulnerable citizens could be lethal”.
Proposals include seismic testing, the construction of 21 new wells and a new concession known as Lot Fitzcarrald.
In January, the Environment Ministry fined Pluspetrol 30 million sol for failing to carry out measures to reverse environmental damage from oil pollution in the Lot 8 concession in Parinari, Loreto, where the Pacaya Samiria reserve is located.
Trade agreement 'risks human rights'
07 February 2013
Free trade agreements signed in December between the European Union and Peru, Colombia and six Central American nations have drawn criticism from human rights advocates.
Peruvian trade minister Carlos Posada described the deal as the country’s most important trade agreement and said it could add up to 0.7 per cent to economic growth in the long term.
But 40 NGOs including the Inter-American Human Rights Platform, Enlazando Alternativas and Friends of the Earth issued a joint statement criticising the agreement. Though it includes some references to human rights, social and environmental standards, unlike other provisions, these are not binding. The groups warned the agreement condones human rights violations and environmental destruction caused by European agro-fuel exports, mining and energy companies.
Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Jagoda Munic, said, “European corporations should comply with the standards set up by the European Union, including human rights laws when they operate outside Europe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.”
Commentators also raised concerns that the agreements with Peru and Colombia, two of the world’s largest cocaine producers, would allow money from drug-trafficking to enter the EU.
Dutch NGO SOMO stated that, “The power of authorities to apply controls to capital flows is being restricted by the FTA. However, there are no particular articles in the agreement that ensure that instruments and regulations are in place that effectively prevent and halt illicit flows. This contrasts with other trade agreements the EU has signed, which have stronger commitments of cooperation and implementation of actions against money laundering, crime and tax evasion or avoidance.” Up to US$7billion is laundered in Peru each year, according to UN estimates.
The agreement will supersede an existing preferential tariff arrangement. Trade between Andean nations and the EU was worth US$27 billion in 2011.
Canaris: clashes as rejected mine considered
04 February 2013
In what was dubbed the first conflict of 2013, police broke up a blockade of the proposed Cañariaco mining project in Cañaris, Lambayeque, northern Peru.
The community had rejected the project when consulted last September, concerned about its impacts on water, forests and agriculture, their principal source of income.
Protests began on 20 January when the government’s National Dialogue Office set up a forum to discuss the development, behind closed doors. The proposed project by Canadian company Candente Copper would be worth US$1.5 billion. Two days into the blockade, police used tear gas against 400 protesters from San Juan de Cañaris. Local councillor Hilario Rodríguez said the demonstration had been peaceful up to that point. Further clashes left 31 people injured, 3 seriously, according to NGO Red Muqui.
Rocío Silva Santisteban, president of the National Human Rights Coordination group, said that the establishment of the dialogue form “is ignoring the community consultation undertaken on 30 September 2012, in which more than 2,000 registered community members participated … In that consultation, 97 per cent of residents voted not to give social license to the Cañariaco Mining Project.”
The human rights ombudsman, the Defensoría del Pueblo, has asked the government to verify whether the community meets the definition of ‘indigenous’ under new legislation, which would qualify it for consultation on the project.
Meanwhile, interior minister Wilfredo Pederaza announced in late January that new police units will be created in mining zones to deal with what he said would be permanent conflict. They will guarantee “citizens, mining investment and also peaceful protest,” he said.
NGO CooperAcción said the move “follows the same logic of prioritising police repression to deal with social conflicts that we've seen in recent years.” The organisation warned that this approach had proved ineffective, harmed human rights, and contradicts the government’s stated commitment to dialogue.
The Defensoría del Pueblo reported that 24 people, all civilians, were killed and 649 injured in social conflicts in 2012.
For information on social conflicts involving British mining companies, see the PSG’s Minewatch.
PSG Welcomes New President and Vice President
03 December 2012
Lord Avebury Stands Down
At the Annual General Meeting on 17th November 2012, Lord Avebury formally stood down as Peru Support Group (PSG) president.
A long-standing friend of the organisation, Eric became PSG president at the 2002 annual conference. Throughout his tenure, he has provided consistent and invaluable support to our organisation, demonstrating a tireless commitment to promoting the rights of Peru’s poorest groups.
During the past ten years, he has chaired numerous annual conferences and hosted a series of events on our behalf, overseeing discussions of post-war reconciliation, human rights, UK mining, poverty and inequality in the country. He has also proved a devoted parliamentary ally, making regular interventions in debates and frequently quizzing the government on all manner of issues affecting Peru’s most vulnerable communities. His valuable contribution to our work on the Rio Blanco conflict, in particular, spurred some of our organisation’s most successful campaign initiatives.
Now aged 84, Eric has reluctantly taken the decision to leave the presidency post, though he remains a dedicated supporter of our work. We would like to our express our deep gratitude to him - on behalf of our membership, management committee members and coordinators, past and present - for his outstanding contribution over the past decade.
New President and Vice President
In recognition of the difficultly of finding a sole individual able to dedicate as much to the role as Eric did, the PSG management committee has proposed splitting the role into two parts. Under this arrangement, the president would continue to provide support within parliament, while the new position of vice president would chair the AGM and provide occasional advice on other areas of our activities. This proposal was unanimously approved in November by members present at the AGM.
Those nominated for the two positions were Baroness Coussins (president) and Rosemary Thorp (vice president). Baroness Coussins was proposed for the presidency position due to the substantial parliamentary and advocacy support she has provided our organisation over the past year. Rosemary Thorp, formerly director of Oxford University’s Latin American Centre / chair of trustees of Oxfam GB, was nominated because of her extensive knowledge of poverty and inequality in Peru, and her long-standing association with our organisation. Both nominations were unanimously approved during the meeting.
We are proud to welcome the two appointees to their posts and look forward to working closely with them over the coming months and years.
Event: Peru and the Persistence of Inequality
01 November 2012
PSG ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2012
10:30am - 4.30pm
Saturday 17th November 2012
Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, London
High rates of economic growth over recent years are often cited as evidence of Peru’s developmental success. While such growth has undoubtedly brought significant benefits, these have not been evenly distributed throughout the country. Inequality and poverty remain serious issues. This year’s annual conference will see Peruvian and European academics and development professionals come together to discuss the causes and consequences of inequality in Peru.
The discussion will be split into the following sessions:
- Opening and closing remarks:
LORD AVEBURY, PSG president and long-standing human rights advocate (chair)
- Inequality in Peru and Latin America:
ROSEMARY THORP CBE, emeritus fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford University and former director of the university’s Latin American Centre
- Extractives - Tax and Inequality:
LEONITH HINOJOSA, research associate and teaching fellow at Manchester University’s School of Environment and Development
- Coca Cultivation and Inequality:
URSULA DURAND, author of a book on Peru’s cocalero movement and current PhD candidate at the London School of Economics
- Offsetting Inequality with Social Programmes?:
MARILYN THOMSON, international development consultant who has worked for CARE International, Save the Children and Central America Women’s Network
PEDRO FRANCKE*, former director of Peruvian social development fund FONCODES and economics professor of Lima’s Católica university
- Causes and Consequences of Inequality in Peru:
JULIO COTLER*, head researcher at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos
DIEGO MOYA OCAMPOS, senior Latin America analyst at IHS Global Insight/IHS Janes
Entrance (includes lunch): £6 for members/concessions, £12 for non-members. Entrance fees may be paid on the door. Non-members can offset their entrance fee against PSG membership (standing order only).
To register please e-mail email@example.com or call 0207 263 1016. Please let us know when registering if you have any special dietary requirements.
* will participate via videoconference
Rural Property Campaign Launched
15 October 2012
On 12th October fifteen Peruvian organisations launched a new campaign to persuade the government to resume a programme granting land titles to indigenous communities.
The scheme in question was originally administered by state body COFOPRI, but has effectively ceased since responsibility was transferred to regional authorities as part of the decentralisation programme. According to the Instituto del Bien Común, one of the campaign leaders, no community has been granted official title during the past two years.
Today, some 959 rural, 2,000 wetland and 650 indigenous communities lack official rights to the territory they inhabit. Local organisations report that data collection on these communities by state institutions has been only limited and sporadic, and has not been shared between regions or government departments. This shortcoming, campaigners say, has prevented Peru from establishing a unitary registry which details the location of all land owned or inhabited by its population.
According to Santiago Alfaro Rotondo of Oxfam’s indigenous law programme, the absence of such a registry has proved particularly problematic where the state has granted extractive concessions in a given territory. Lacking accurate data on the locations of communities, officials have tended to incorrectly assume that large areas are unpopulated. Accordingly, the concessions granted often overlap with those occupied by indigenous groups.
The new campaign, entitled ‘Secure Territories for Peruvian Communities’, seeks to combat such problems through mobilising popular support and persuading the government to resume its land titling programme.
For more details on the campaign please visit http://comunidadesdelperu.ibcperu.org/ [Sp].