Articles by: Kristina Aiello
On July 1 the Peruvian government notified Father Paul Mc Auley, an environmental activist in the northern Amazon region, that it was rescinding his residency in the country. The order to expel the British priest comes on the heels of his efforts to ensure accountability for the massive June 19 oil spill of PlusPetrol, an Argentine oil company with a safety record equal to that of British Petroleum. This further indicates an unofficial governmental policy in Peru to stifle voices that highlight the social and environmental costs of the country’s resource development agenda.
On June 5, 2009 police moved in with lethal force to remove indigenous protesters upset about their lands being opened up to oil and gas drilling. The ensuing violence left 34 people dead and hundreds wounded. Now, a year later, not only hasn't there been a fair and impartial accounting of what led up to this violence in Bagua, but also the conditions and reasons for it remain intact in Peru. Development plans, designed to exploit the country's natural resources, are accelerating in the country. And Peruvian President Alan Garcia might just be undermining the country's new consultation law, meant to make the decision-making process around these development plans more democratic.
Since taking office in 2006, Peruvian President Alan Garcia has initiated an aggressive economic development strategy focused on opening up Peru’s natural resources to international extraction corporations, often in the face of large-scale protests and organized campaigns. The administration has responded with efforts designed to criminalize the opposition’s actions via newly enacted legislation, while simultaneously beefing up the country’s private security sector and authorizing the wider deployment of Peru’s military forces. The government has coupled these efforts with an aggressive propaganda campaign that links protestors to armed groups as a justification for increasing the national security presence in regions that are attractive to foreign investors.
Late December, the administration of Peruvian President Alan García rammed through a final report of the special commission to investigate and analyze the violence that erupted last June 5 in Peru's Bagua province. The report of the Commission Of Inquiry has been widely criticized as an embarrassing attempt to validate the government's version of the root causes of the events.
Rapid economic globalization and recent political violence have spawned mass migrations of humanity across international borders throughout the Americas. The migrations have sparked fierce debates in many of the "receiving" countries, where the combination of exploding demands for cheap foreign labor and state obligations to protect incoming refugees have often provoked strong domestic opposition to the presence of foreign-born individuals—especially those without official documentation. While many of these debates have focused on the enactment of policies restricting the immigration of foreign-born adults, xenophobic sentiments have opened new political spaces to begin imposing limitations on the birth registration of the native-born children of immigrants.
The battle over the waters of Lake Parón, in the Northern Andes of Peru, came to a head during the late afternoon hours of July 29, 2008, when over 100 farmers from Huaylas province of the Department of Ancash took over the hydraulic operations of the Cañón del Pato Hydroelectic Center. The farmers were protesting the nearly 50% drop in Lake Parón's water levels following the center's release of the lake's water in order to enhance its power production capabilities. Cañón del Pato is operated by Egenor Duke Energy, a large, private energy corporation owned by Duke Energy International, a subsidiary of Duke Energy headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) recently expressed concern over revelations that Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS), the powerful intelligence arm of the president's office, had spied on IACHR Commissioner and Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women Susana Villarán and her delegation during a June 2005 visit to Colombia. The Uribe administration's interest in spying on that mission points to its concern that an international investigation might highlight Colombia's abysmal women's rights record, including the underreported use of sexual violence as a favored weapon of war by the country's many armed groups.
The recent conflict in the Peruvian Amazon is only the most violent symptom of an ongoing cold war being waged by President Alan García against indigenous groups. Besides a racist propaganda campaign and violent repression, the government has tried highly suspect legal mechanisms to disarticulate indigenous power. García's actions are all part of his attempt to unleash the forces of the free market on the Amazon at any cost.
The Mexican government's increasing crackdown on social movements underscores the urgency for the Obama administration to move away from a failed drug war model. The military aid Washington is sending across the border is facilitating a militarization of Mexican society that will likely cause greater suppression of political dissent.