From WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS, ISSUE #856, JUNE 25, 2006

*1. PERU: TRADE PROTESTERS BLOCK RUINS

As part of an ongoing series of protests against the Andean Free Trade Agreement (known in the region simply as the Free Trade Treaty, or TLC), Peruvian campesinos in the southeastern region around Cusco shut down tourist visits to the Machu Picchu ruins on June 21. The campesinos used tree trunks and boulders to block railroad tracks outside Cusco; others blocked streets inside the city. The company PeruRail, which operates the only rail service to the ruins and normally carries 1,200 tourists a day, suspended operations for the day.

Peru signed the TLC in December. On June 6 the government of outgoing president Alejandro Toledo sent the 1,000-page document to Congress for ratification. He is pushing for the accord to be finalized before July 28, when a new Congress will be seated and Toledo's successor, former president Alan Garcia (1985-1990) of the social democratic Peruvian Aprista Party, will take office.

The General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) called for the June 21 action. "The TLC [creates] the cruelest unfair competition between our Andean products and highly subsidized US products; it will plunge us into poverty, destroying our agriculture and our national manufacturing sector in its early stages." [El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 6/22/06 from AP] The labor group organized a huge protest against the TLC in July 2005, and campesino groups organized a day of protests on June 8 of this year [see Updates #807, 854].

The Struggle Against the TLC National Coordinating Committee, an umbrella organization for labor and campesino groups, has scheduled another protest for July 4, Independence Day in the US. On June 22 former presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, a nationalist who lost to Garcia in a June 4 runoff election, announced his support for the anti-TLC protests. Nelson Palomino, the leader of the Confederation of Peruvian Cocaleros [coca growers], who spent three and a half years jailed in the Yanamilla prison in Ayacucho, announced his intention to march at the head of the protests and demanded a meeting with Garcia to discuss the TLC. Garcia, who was on a visit to Chile, said his party didn't unconditionally support the accord. His government would push for an "improvement...of the conditions that Mr.
Toledo negotiated," he told the Chilean radio state RPP. [Cadena Global/EFE 6/22/06; Cadena Peruana de Noticias Radio 6/23/06]

*2. ECUADOR: CAMPESINOS OCCUPY OIL WELLS

Some 200 Ecuadoran campesinos occupied the roads leading to the Coca-Payamino installation of the French oil company Perenco on the morning of June 19 to protest the company's "indifference" to the environmental damage they said it had caused. The campesinos came from three communities--15 de Abril, Asociacion Campesina Payamino and Asociacion Campesina Punino--in Orellana province in northeastern Ecuador. The campesinos said company representatives repeatedly failed to come to meetings called to resolve the problems.

During the morning the approximately 20 Ecuadoran soldiers that had been guarding the facility for the last three weeks were reinforced by 20 soldiers arriving in helicopters and by six local police agents coming on foot, according to local residents. The governor of Orellana and a ranking military officer also arrived and ordered the removal of the campesinos at noon. "The police and military forces repressed the campesinos by hurling a large number of tear gas grenades and shooting rubber bullets, resulting in two people wounded, two arrested and the end of the occcupation of the oil installation," the Human Rights Office of the Coca reported.

One of the people injured was Wilman (or Wilmer) Adolfo Jimenez Salazar, a member of the Orellana Human Rights Committee who was acting as a human rights observer when he was shot six times with rubber bullets at close range, in the leg, arm and abdomen. He was then arrested. He was taken to the Orellana Civilian Hospital for treatment, but Orellana judicial police agents later removed him. Human rights groups and the municipal government of Francisco de Orellana designated Jimenez a "disappeared person" and filed a habeas corpus petition for his release.

Orellana prefect Guadalupe Llori told the Associated Press she was attempting to mediate the situation. Although the campesinos were removed on June 19, "I think they've gone back to reoccupy" the area, she said on June 20. "They play cat and mouse. Today they're removed, tomorrow they're back." Perenco has been operating in Ecuador since 2002, exploring and drilling in the Amazonian region, according to its website. [Yahoo Noticias Argentina 6/20/06; El Nuevo Herald 6/20/06 from AP; Diario Hoy (Ecuador) 6/20/06 from AFP; Francisco de Orellana press release 6/20/06]

Also in Update #856:

--Guatemala: Seniors on Hunger Strike
--Latin America: Pride Marches On
--In Other News: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. If this issue was forwarded to you, please write to  wnu@igc.org for a free one-month subscription. Update items are available in searchable form at  http://americas.org

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