Peru: new Sendero Luminoso resurgence
Radical Cabinet Change; Looming terrorist threat; Mafia forgery bust; Cheap gas for poor families
Terrorist threat looms
Residents of the Vilcabamba and Kimbiri districts of the Cusco jungle have been thrown between a rock and a hard place, with the military representing government reform on one flank and guerillas representing Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) threatening on the other.
The jungle regions of Peru have always been a site of contention with regards to government control. Residents and commentators alike fear that the situation may escalate and replicate the ‘violent days’ of the 1980s and 1990s, where the army and guerillas fought, often catching innocent residents in the process.
It has emerged that the new head of the Sendero Luminoso group, ‘Comrade Gabriel’ has been visiting inhabitants of these regions, threatening them with death if they inform the military of guerilla movements. On the other hand residents have the military pushing them for information on what is seen as terrorist action.
In an interview published in the ‘Republica’ newspaper it emerged that many jungle residents, who feel threatened by these recent visits from Sendero Luminoso, have grouped to form defense committees. Deyvet Mansilla, the president of one of these confirmed that the guerillas were dressed in military uniform and well armed, a factor that has added to local confusion and fear. No one knows whom to trust, or who to turn to.
Mansilla admitted that he was concerned at by the way in which events seem to reflect those of the past. He added that between the twelve new defense committees, there were only eighteen old Mossberg rifles, no match for the Sendero Luminoso who brandish AK-47s, Galil, M5 and G3s to name but a few. Mansilla has expressed a desire for the military to offer them arms, if not physical support.
Other residents however, wish to distance themselves from the military as even working with, or being related to someone who is or was in the army could be seen as a betrayal of Sendero Luminoso. Many people just wish to get on with their lives without having to pledge allegiance to either camp however, when both parties are so persistent (and well-armed) it is very difficult not to.
Radical Cabinet Change
In an interview with various members of the press this week, Peruvian president Ollanta Humala said that he will make drastic changes to his cabinet by the end of July.
Over the past few weeks there has been much speculation as to who will replace Oscar Valdes, the current cabinet chief, who is to resign as a result of critisicm over the social and political problems provoked by the Conga and Espinar mining projects.
Thus far, Martin Vizcarra, the regional president of Moquegua, and Cesar Villanueva, the regional president of San Martin have been reccomended. Two current ministers have also been suggested; Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister and Rene Cornejo, the Housing Minister. Speculation as to who else will be ‘rearranged’ in terms of cabinet positions has been rife, especially since popularity ratings for the current government have plummeted since the last mining manifestation at Espinar.
President Humala claims that, ‘changes to his cabinet will come at the most appropriate moment’ however, he has also implied that this decision will be made by the end of July. His annual state address is to take place on the 28 July, when it is expected that he will confirm these pending changes.
Mafia forgery bust
Peruvian police have exposed a mafia group that are responsible for exporting counterfeit US dollars and Euros from the country. Over $2 million and 1.5 million Euros were confiscated from the criminal ring this week.
General Cesar Cortijo, chief of the Peruvian Criminal Investigation Division (Dirincri) revealed that the head of the family run mafia group is a man known as Quispe Rodriguez, who allegedly used his thirteen year old son to smuggle counterfeit cash from the country.
The property where the money was being forged in San Juan de Lurigancho, a poor district of Lima, has been taken by police. It is believed that Peru is one of the largest producers of counterfeit currency in Latin America.
Cheap gas for poor families
President Ollanta Humala has fulfilled his promise of cheaper gas for those who most need it. In an announcement last week, Humala revealed that he will offer the poorest families in the Cusco region a subsidy of S/16 (nuevos Soles, the equivalent of £3.90) as part of his Fondo de Inclusión Social Energético (FISE).
The launch of this new project is another aspect of President Humala’s social justice theme. He announced this week that FISE will benefit over 645,000 families who live in the Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM). It is hoped that this project will reach out to over one million families by the end of its first year.
Jorge Merino Tarfur, the minister for energy and mining explained that families who spent less than 100 kilowatts a month would be given vouchers in order to obtain their gas subsidy, whether they have gas facilities or not.
In a week where president Humala’s popularity has been thrown into question as a result of public dissatisfaction with social issues in regards to the Conga and Espinar mining projects, news of the president’s successes have been received well. Humala can now claim to have satisfied yet another of his social justice campaign promises, what with the introduction of ‘Pension 65’ and ‘Becca 18’ (university sponsorship).