- Peru Support Group
- › News
Threat to freedom of the press
31 May 2005
UK journalist Sally Bowen and her co-author Jane Holligan, have been charged with libel in Peru after a businessman Fernando Zevallos filed a case against them. The Peru based organisation Foreign Press Association (APEP) has condemned the decision of judge Alfredo Catacora as an "ill-fated precedent for the right to freedom of information" and described the decision as a "threat to freedom of expression".
According to judge Catacora, the journalists committed libel against Zevallos when they reproduced a statement made by Oscar Benitez Linares, describing Zevallos as a 'drug trafficker', in their recently published book "The Imperfect Spy".
Sally Bowen has been ordered to pay civil reparation of £1,600 and must follow certain 'rules of conduct' for the next year.
According to the judge, even though Zevallos has been accused of illegal drug trafficking and the airline he owns, Aero Continente, put on a US government blacklist of companies with suspected links to drug traffickers, he can not be named a 'drug trafficker' until he has been sentenced for trafficking drugs.
Commission to bring TRC reparations closer
31 May 2005
The commission for the Design and Monitoring of a Policy of Peace, Collective Reparations and National Reconciliation (CMAN) has asked the Peruvian government for a budget increase of US$15mn to provide compensation to those affected by violence in the conflict that took place between 1980 and 2000.
CMANs perseverance has paid off and members of the commission, led by Jaime Urrutia, say that President Toledo has renewed interest in the subject of reparations.
CMAN request that money be handed over to more than 246,000 people in 8 departments, 35 provinces, 129 districts and 562 communities and have requested an additional US$19mn for 2006. Urrutia said "I believe the process of reparations should last around 10 years" and that a registry of victims is urgently required.
Forced Labour in the Amazon
31 May 2005
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has published a report that states that 30,000 Peruvians are the victims of forced labour in the Amazon region.
Illegal lumberjacks, entering indigenous communities, offer money and goods such as rice and salt, before insisting that members of the community then work to pay back their 'debts'. The indigenous people are forced to work, cutting down local forests taking wood from their territories.
The lumberjacks, taking advantage of local peoples lack of knowledge of the price of wood and the value of their labour, sign people up to 10-year contracts.
The report found that this method of forced labour is prevalent throughout the Amazon region. The highest levels of forced labour were found in Ucayali, Madre de Dios and Loreto, most as a result of the illegal trade in wood.
The report found other problems relating to forced labour are prostitution within the lumberjack camps, inhumane working conditions, money laundering and drug trafficking. The negative impact on local communities thus, is over whelming.
The report recommends that forestry companies operating in Peru must be subject to regulations protecting the working conditions of the people who cut the wood they buy.
In response to the report Roberto Servat, the Minister for labour, said "The responsibility is with all members of civil society. For that reason, the government is forming a multi-sector commission and a strategy for the eradication of the practice of forced labour with the participation of those subjected to forced labour, forestry companies, lumberjacks, indigenous workers, the Ministry of Labour and NGO’s etc.".
Wake Up To Trade Justice!
31 March 2005
As Peru gets closer to signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, the international community is coming together to send a strong message to decision makers. Their message is that current trade rules are unjust and imposed on poor countries. They want to bring about the universal access to food, a livelihood, water, health and education.
The leader of the Peruvian Congress, Antero Flores-Araoz, said ``The free trade agreement could signify a turning point for Peru's future. It will open up more markets for the country.''
However, the FTA negotiations between the US and Peru, as well as those between other Latin American countries, did not conclude in January as planned. Differences over intellectual property rights and agricultural issues forced negotiators to add at least two more rounds of talks.
The US claim that the U.S.-Andean FTA will benefit the Andean nations by locking in more permanently the special access to the U.S. market that Andean nations currently enjoy under the Andean Trade Preference Act, which is set to expire in 2006.
Critics say that the current US-Andean FTAs under negotiation would raise prices of essential medications that are already unaffordable for millions of Andeans, with a potentailly catastrophic impact on disease control, including HIV/AIDS.
These kinds of bilateral agreements undermine the international consensus reached at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and give the US the ability to make trade agreements without appropriate balance between the protection of private intellectual property and the protection of public health.
The Trade Justice Movement is spearheading the overwhelming international support for a fundamental change to unjust trade rules. If you would like to get involved visit www.tjm.org.uk
China and Peru Establish Strategic Trade Partnership
31 March 2005
China and Peru have signed eight bilateral trade accords aiming to increase trade, investment and tourism between the two countries. The agreements were signed following a meeting between Peruvian President Toledo and China's Vice President Zeng Qinghong in Lima.
Their main objectives include advancing China's role in development of Peru's gas and oil resources; establishing import and export standards for Peruvian grapes and Chinese apples; and Peru's designation as an official tourist destination for Chinese travellers.
Toledo hopes the accords represent a strategic partnership with China that will benefit all of South America saying: 'Peru today has become the gateway to South America and we hope that the diversification of our commercial relations of investment between Peru and China won't only be bilateral'.
Trade with China now represents 16% of Peru's total foreign trade and Peru has become China's fifth largest Latin American trading partner.
Fuji-Cola to Raise Money for Fujimoriís Election Campaign
31 March 2005
Exiled ex-president Alberto Fujimori's latest campaign brainwave comes in the form of Fuji-cola; a new drink to 'quench the thirst of popular discontent'. Carlos Raffo, Fujimori's spokesman in Lima, considers the drink 'a creative way to finance his campaign' stating that 'people will associate the drink with all the good feelings they have about Alberto Fujimori'. Supporters hope it will both help fund his run for re-election and raise his profile again.
Fujimori intends to stand at next year's presidential election, despite being banned from holding public office again before 2010. However, due to the fact that his final sentence is still pending, it is still unclear whether he will be eligible or not. If he runs and finds public support, a ban may cease to be relevant.
Toledo's Government Gives Money to the Poor
31 March 2005
President Toledo wants to hand money directly to Peru's poorest people in order to redress the imbalance of wealth prevalent in Peru. The gap between rich and poor in Latin America remains the largest in the world. 'We need to accelerate the process of trickle down' states the Peruvian Deputy Minister of Finance Fernando Zavala.
Toledo's plan has been both criticised as a political ploy, with an election looming, and commended as a reasonable policy made possible by good economic management. US$30 a month would likely be given only to families with children under 5 or pregnant mothers, nearly doubling the income of the poorest Peruvians. The money will also come with conditions requiring recipients to ensure regular school attendance and vaccination for their children. The plan is yet to receive approval by congress.
President Toledoís Party, Peru Posible, Accused of Corruption
31 January 2005
President Toledo's party, Peru Posible, has been accused of forging the signatures on the petition to register Mr Toledo's party for the 2000 elections. Prosecutors in Peru have alleged Mr Toledo's party forged almost 80% of the 520,000 signatures it used to register for the 2000 polls, which it subsequently lost, but gained a landslide victory a year later.
The accusation has prompted a barrage of witnesses to come forward to give evidence, including statements that directly implicated the President himself, although he is immune from prosecution while in office.
Margarita Toledo, the president's sister, is under house arrest pending further police investigations into her alleged involvement in the gathering of false signatures. Her assets have been frozen along with those of twenty-five other people arrested. The head of an investigation commission has said that more than three-quarters of the one point two million signatures were faked before Mr Toledo's party was registered for elections in 2000.
The president has agreed to cooperate fully with judicial and congressional investigations and continues to fully deny the allegations made against him. He has even claimed there is a conspiracy against his party, blaming the allegations on a smear campaign by the mafia and supporters of former president Fujimori.
A Peruvian judge will weigh the evidence against Mr Toledo to decide whether to bring the case to trial, local media report.
In the last year Peru Posible has been plagued with allegations of corruption and scandals, with the resignation of seven of Toledo’s cabinet ministers and the arrest of a former aide, accused of bribing judges.
Toledo has called on Congress to form a commission to investigate "the conspiracy against democracy" that he says is trying to bring down his government.
Vote of Censure
31 January 2005
A motion, against prime minister Carlos Ferrero and defence minister Roberto Chiabra, was voted on in congress last week, faulting them for not heeding warnings and failing to prevent the recent uprising in Andahuaylas. The vote came only a week after Javier Reategui, the interior minister, resigned following the rebellion that demanded Mr Toledo's resignation. If successful, the congressional vote would have forced out both the ministers. However, neither ministers were voted out, and they remain in office.With his sister under house arrest in connection to the forgery of signatures and his first lady, Elaine Karp, under investigation over alleged misuse of World Bank funds, Toledo's popularity seems to be at an all time low. In fact, a poll in the Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio, recently put his rating among Limeños at 8%.
Campesinos succeed! - The Expansion of One of the Biggest Mines in Peru Will Not Go Ahead
31 January 2005
The Peruvian National Human Rights Coordinator's Ángel Escobar Jurado award was given to Father Marco Arana in December, in recognition of his work as the mediator of dialogue between the local community of Cajamarca and mining company Minera Yanacocha. Father Arana's efforts led to the peaceful resolution of the years-long conflict over plans to expand the Yanacocha mine to the environmentally sensitive and spiritually significant Quilish Mountain.
Following years of community opposition, Minera Yanacocha decided not to expand the Yanacocha Mine. In an unprecedented statement printed in Peruvian newspapers, Minera Yanacocha acknowledged that the mine's activities over the last 20 years had significantly changed the area, and cited community opposition as part of its decision to stop its exploration.