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Outside of Lima | July 11, 2011 [ 15:20 ]

Peru launches anti-cocaine operation near Colombia-Brazil border

Drug war in Peru boarder with Brazil and Colombia
Photo by Rodrigo Rodrich for El Comercio.

Members of a Peruvian anti-drug task force have swept through the border region with Colombia and Brazil this month, destroying coca fields and laboratories, according to a report from El Comercio.

As part of Operation Amazonian Trapezoid 2011, 200 police officers descended on the province of Ramón Castilla in Loreto region, starting July 4th. They destroyed fifteen large cocaine laboratories, as well as 33 hectares of clandestine coca fields.

This marks the first time that Peru’s anti-drug forces have acted on the shared border with Colombia and Brazil.

They are responding to a growing drug industry in the region. With their remote terrain and ease of access to Colombia and Brazil, the towns of Caballacocha and Santa Rosa have blossomed as centers for coca production.

El Comercio’s data suggests that some 770 hectares of land in the province is devoted to illegal coca cultivation, and that this number represents a 20% increase from two years ago.

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Outside of Lima | June 25, 2011 [ 14:54 ]

Protesters take over Juliaca airport in southern Peru

Nathan Paluck

Confrontations in Juliaca between police and protesters on Friday, June 24. (Photo: Los Andes)

President Alan García comments on the violence in Juliaca. (Video: Canal N)

Thousands of anti-mining protestors shut down the comercial airport in Juliaca, in southern Peru, officials told Reuters.

According to police general Herbert Rosas, about 3,000 protesters have occupied the runway and several hundred police retreated to avoid a clash similar to yesterday's, which left at least six dead.

The protesters, largely indigenous Aymara, have come to Juliaca demanding a halt to all mining activities in the area.

Yesterday the violence spurred President Alan García to revoke the license for Canadian mining company Bear Creek, which planned to produce silver at their Santa Ana mine. García told reporters the move is an effort to “guarantee a peaceful transition and a trouble-free start to the government of Ollanta Humala."

Today García told press that “dark political interests” were behind the violent protests, which he described as an “almost paramilitary force.”

“What they seek is to pressure the next administration and [president-elect] Ollanta Humala making this warning and shows of strength,” García said.

The protests, if continued through Humala's July 28 inauguration, would provide an immediate test to the incoming nationalist president.

Humala campaigned on social inclusion and his strongest political base is the southern highlands – in Puno, site of the current violence, he obtained 77% support. Humala recently said that natural resource investments will continue, but “with respect for indigenous rights and local populations.” 

According to an April report by the ombudsman office, Peru has 159 active conflicts, 117 of which came to violence.

The CEO of Bear Creek told Reuters the company would sue the Peruvian government to recover its concession, the Santa Ana mine, which has an estimated 63.2 million ounces of silver.

The magazine Caretas has reported that illegal miners in Puno are working alongside protesters, reports Reuters.

See video footage below of the protesters encroaching the Juliaca airport. (Video: Canal N)

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Outside of Lima | June 24, 2011 [ 16:38 ]

Peru government cancels mine after violent clashes in Puno

By Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Peru cancels mine after violent clashes in Puno
Six people have been killed today in the violent clash between protesters and police members in Juliaca, Puno. (Photo: El Comercio)

At least six people are reported to have been shot dead as a result of violent clashes between demonstrators and police and army members in the southeastern city of Juliaca, Puno.

The demonstrators were turned back trying to take over the Manco Cápac International Airport in Juliaca, but four were shot dead in the process. Parts of the airport were set on fire and there is was at least one dead body lying on the tarmac, reported El Comercio and RPP.

Television images of the airport showed its perimeter walls breached and tires burning.

Roads have been blocked since May 9 in a bid to cancel the Santa Ana mine as well as a proposed hydroelectric project on the Inambari river.

Today the García administration canceled the Canadian-owned silver mine as a result of the extreme violence that, so far has reported six people killed and at least 30 wounded when police fired on mostly indigenous protesters opposing the project.

Journalists reported that at least 5,000 protesters were involved in strikes and demonstrations.

Interior Minister, Miguel Hidalgo, said police in the nearby city of Azangaro were "in a difficult situation."

El Comercio has reported recently that protesters have surrounded the police station and set it on fire. Four members have been reported missing and presumably held as hostages.

Local radio reports said protesters are angry over the deaths of the demonstrators in Juliaca and were besieging the local police station.

Mine's reaction

Hours after the violence, mining vice minister, Fernando Gala, announced that the government had revoked a 2007 decree granting approval to Bear Creek Mining Corp. of Victoria, British Columbia, to mine silver at Santa Ana in Puno.

Bear Creek's director, Andrew Swarthout, said the company had not received formal notification of the decree's revocation, according The Associated Press.

He said any government attempt to cancel the project would be illegal and amount to "expropriation."

"We followed all the rules. We got public consent. We're in the middle of an environmental impact statement. It was due process. Everything was within the letter of the law," Swarthout said.

The company has said it already spent $96 million on the Santa Ana project.

Swarthout has warned previously that any attempt to end the project would give pause to international investors who have announced their intention to plow more than $40 billion into Peru's mining sector in the coming decade.

Mining accounts for two-thirds of Peru's export earnings and has been the underpinning of a decade of robust economic growth, but the rural poor have benefited little from mining and complain it contaminates their water and crops.

Watch images of the violent demonstrations today in Juliaca and Azángaro, Puno (Video footage: Panamericana Televisión):

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Outside of Lima | May 26, 2011 [ 11:14 ]

Luxury cruise through the Amazon aboard the new M/V Aria


The Aqua, another of Aqua Expeditions luxury cruises. (Photo: Aqua Expeditions)

Missoula-based travel company Adventure Life has announced a series of Amazon cruises aboard the M/V Aria, only the second luxury cruise ship to explore the northern Amazon River in Peru, operated by Aqua Expeditions.

The 147-foot luxury vessel was custom built by Peruvian architect Jordi Puig and completed in early 2011 to offer an extraordinary level of comfort and indulgence.

Adventure Life said in a press release that it is offering 4, 5 and 8 day trips from May - December with prices starting at $2,550.

"The M/V Aria offers one of the most intimate Amazon experiences available. With a maximum of 32 guests plus crew, this ship provides extremely high-end dining and sleeping accommodations, and phenomenal access to Amazonian wildlife," said Adventure Life operations director Jonathan Brunger.

It also offers a relaxed lounge, outdoor jacuzzi, fitness center, gourmet cuisine and modern navigation technologies. The ship's 16 luxury suites each measure 240 square feet and feature sitting areas and large picture-windows with panoramic Amazon River views.

Renowned Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, of Malabar, has created an exclusive menu consisting of fresh Peruvian food that promises to be a Peruvian culinary feast for the senses, paired with premium South American wines.

Adventure Life cruises aboard M/V Aria include guided jungle explorations, encounters with bald uakari monkeys, squirrel monkeys, saddleback tamarin monkeys and sloths, as well as many other species.

They also include opportunities to photograph rare gray and pink freshwater dolphins, a visit into the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, encounters with locals in the native village of Puerto Miguel, and skiff excursions into the bowels of the Amazon forests.

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Outside of Lima | April 29, 2011 [ 12:02 ]

Statistics released on native Amazonian communities in Peru

By Elie Gardner

Yurimaguas, a port town in the Amazon region of northern Peru. Photo: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters

The National Statistics Institute recently released a report on native Amazonian communities in Peru. The information in the report came from the 2007 census and represents 332,975 individuals, 1.2 percent of Peru's census population.

It found Peru is home to 1,786 indigenous communities. The communities speak a variety of native languages. The most prevalent come from the Arahuaca and Jíbaro language families. Other languages spoken include Quechua, Pano, Cahuapana, Tupi Guaraní, Peba-Yagua and Huitoto.

The indigenous are concentrated in five of the 11 departments in the Amazon. Amazonas (13.9 percent), Loreto (11.9 percent), Ucayali (9.4 percent) and Junín (6 percent) have the largest populations. The remaining six Amazonian departments registered less than 6 percent.

The population is young. Fifty percent of the population is under the age of 16. The median was slightly higher for men, at 16.5, and slightly lower for women, at 15.4. Among those under the age of 18, 39.2 percent are under the age of 6. 

Fifty-three percent of the working-aged population is employed. The legal age to work in Peru is 14. Of the 53 percent of those with jobs, 52 percent are independent workers, 23.9 are unpaid family workers, 15. 8 percent are skilled workers and 6.1 percent are hired employees.

The study also found that 92 percent of the population has a birth certificate and 85.1 carry a DNI, the government issued identification card in Peru.

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Outside of Lima | April 12, 2011 [ 13:54 ]

Peru, Bolivia open trout reproduction plant in Lake Titicaca

Producers of trout at Titicaca lake. (Photo: Foncodes)

A trout reproduction plant in Lake Titicaca, located at Chicharro, 120 kilometers from the Bolivian city of La Paz, was opened today with the participation of the authorities from Peru and Bolivia.

The plant, which will have a reproduction capacity of 240,000 trout on its first phase, is promoted by the Binational Authority of Lake Titicaca, ALT, and the Chicharro’s fish farming association.

The financial and technical support of ALT aimed at strengthening the fish farming activity of this association, through the implementation of a water distribution system in pipes and a system of incubators and throughs or boxes.

The plant will increase its current trout production, which totaled 20,000 per month.

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Outside of Lima | March 22, 2011 [ 11:30 ]

Northern Peru region of Piura declares March 18-25 "Silver Filigree Week"

An example of a silver filigree pendant. (Photo:

President of the northern Peru region of Piura, Javier Atkins Lerggios, reported that his administration had recently institutionalized Silver Filigree Week, which will be held every year on March 18-25. The measure was made official through regional ordinance 204-2011 in the El Peruano newspaper last Friday, with the goal of creating a space to promote the work of artisans in Catacaos.

Filigree is an art and a way to make a living for 400 Catacaos artisans, according to Piura’s tourism and export agency. It is a technique that transforms thin threads of silver (or gold) into elegant earrings, bracelets, chains and other types of jewelry highly valued on the international market. Filigree is also used in the designs of traditional costumes, like for the Peruvian caballo de paso (show horse) or the hat of its rider, the chalán.

Family inheritance
The hands of Franklin González Atarama exceptional. This Catacaos artisan has devoted himself to the filigree business for 10 years now, since his father began bringing him to his workshop. Now, at the age of 37, he is one of the most well known jewelry makers in the district, and, alongside with six colleagues, formed an association that successfully exports to England.

But according to president of the Catacaos technological innovation center, Hernán Macalupú, only 30 jewelry makers currently export their products. “We need to improve the quality of the work, have faith in associations as a tool to grow, and train new generations with a eye toward entrepreneurship,” he said.

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Outside of Lima | March 7, 2011 [ 15:29 ]

Photographer documents gold frenzy in La Rinconada, Peru, world's highest settlement

Ovaska shot with a Holga camera, producing stark photos that convey a certain bleakness and desperation. All photos by Mark Ovaska. See his website here.

Mark Ovaska, a freelance photographer from the U.S., recently completed a trip to the La Rinconada gold mining settlement in the Peruvian Andes, considered the highest city in the world. Inspired by this National Geographic article—in particular, the lack of pictures of La Rinconada—Ovaska took off for the town located 16,700 feet above sea level in the San Antonio de Putina region of Puno to try to capture the spirit of the place.

What he found was a shantytown bordering a glacier that is home to about 30,000 people, mostly men who toil endlessly for the Corporación Ananea gold mining company. Under the cachorreo system, after 30 straight days of work, they are permitted a four-hour window on the thirty-first day to haul out as much rock as they can, with the hopes that it will contain traces of gold.

Working conditions are dangerous, and desperation causes rampant lawlessness. To make matters worse, many miners suffer from neurological issues caused by the mercury used in mining that seeps into the drinking water. "I really underestimated how miserable it would be," Ovaska told NPR. To see his "Glacier Gold" gallery on his Web site, click here.

Still, according to the NPR story, Ovaska would like to go back to La Rinconada “to more intimately explore the people who live there.” He is interested to see if there is a more hopeful story behind the people who live to search for gold.

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Outside of Lima | March 3, 2011 [ 16:53 ]

Rice Festival to take place in Peru's San Martin

Juanes are a typical jungle rice-based dish. (Photo: Inforegión)

With the goal of promoting the quality of the rice product, encouraging diversification and increasing consumption in homes and commercially, the regional department of agriculture of San Martín is organizing the second annual San Martín Rice Festival 2011, which will take place on March 8, 12 and 13 in the Alto Mayo region.

The regional director of agriculture, Antontio Arce García, said that the festival is a strategy to encourage field workers to continue improving their product. It also provides motivation for local residents to prepare new rice-based dishes and contributes to tourism in the region.

Participants will consist of supply chain members like rice millers and companies that supply materials, as well as public and private institutions and the general public. The event will feature diverse activities, such as round-table discussions, field trips, artistic demonstrations, expositions, research work and contests for planters in three categories. There will be a ceremony to commemorate World Rice Day and a culinary festival of rice-based dishes. Prizes will be awarded and the pioneers of rice irrigation techniques in the region will be recognized.

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Outside of Lima | February 26, 2011 [ 23:02 ]

Death toll from Peru bus accident climbs to 28

Latin American Herald Tribune [*]

Death toll from Peru bus accident climbs to 28
At least 28 people were killed in a bus accident Saturday, close to Matucana. (Photo: El Comercio)

The death toll from a bus accident in Matucana (in central Peru) has climbed to at least 28, although rescue teams were continuing to search for more victims.

Police confirmed the death toll Saturday and said 49 other people were injured, including a 4-year-old Chilean boy identified as Diego Leo who said he was traveling with his grandmother.

The woman still has not been identified among the injured or dead.

The director of a hospital in Lima province where the boy was being treated told America Televisión (Channel 4) that the Chilean Embassy helped contact his mother and that she was already with her son at the clinic.

The accident occurred Friday when a bus covering the route from Huancayo – 310 kilometers east of Lima – to the Peruvian capital plunged 180 meters to the bottom of a ravine.

Highway police said the accident occurred when the bus driver made an ill-advised attempt to pass another vehicle on a stretch of mountain road with poor visibility.

The injured were transferred to the hospital in the nearby town of Matucana and to clinics in the Peruvian capital.

Police, however, were continuing to work in the area, using heavy machinery to move the bus and four specially trained dogs in the search-and-rescue effort.

Highway police commander Gastón Ramirez Rodríguez told RPP radio that another victim was located under the vehicle and that the rescue team hoped to remove the body on Saturday.

[*] With updated information from El Comercio

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