March 22, 2008
PERUVIANS ARRESTED FOR PARTICIPATION IN BOLIVARIAN CONFERENCE
Rights Action is extremely concerned about the current violations of
fundamental human rights in Peru , particularly the right to freedom
of opinion and expression and the right of peaceful assembly and
association. Following their participation in an internal and public
congress of the Boliviarian Continental Coordinator (CCB) in Quito ,
Ecuador from February 24 to 28, seven members of the Peru chapter of
the CCB were detained upon returning to Peru on terrorism charges.
All are currently in prison, awaiting their legal trial in which they
could face up to 20 years in prison. Six of the seven are women, four
of these over fifty years of age, and one is known to have cancer.
Rights Action encourages letters (sample at the end of this message)
to be sent to Peruvian authorities.
On February 29 seven Peruvians (Arminda Valladares Saba, Melissa Rocío
Patiño Hinostroza, Guadalupe Alejandrina Hilario Rivas, Maria Gabriel
Segura, Carmen Mercedes Asparrent Riveros, Roque Gonzáles La Rosa and
Damaris Velasco Huiza), were arrested in the department of Tumbes on
the border with Ecuador by Peruvian police as they returned to their
country after participating in a meeting of the Bolivarian Continental
Coordinator (Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana - CCB) which took
place in Quito, Ecuador from February 24 to 28.
The seven, members of the CCB Peruvian chapter (CCB-P), were initially
detained under suspicion of Affiliation and Collaboration in
Terrorism; the public prosecutor's office has since formalized this
charge based on their participation in the CCB meeting in Ecuador .
The CCB is a public forum that brings together civil society
organizations interested in promoting the "Bolivarian Revolution" in
Latin America . The Bolivarian Revolution is a political concept
based on a call for Latin American unity, socialist political ideals
and the promotion of widespread protest activities as a means of
resistance to global capitalism, and has been inspired by the movement
in Venezuela .
According to media reports, some participants in the CCB meeting in
Quito discussed protesting the Latin American-European Union (ALC-UE)
and Asian Pacific Cooperation (APEC) international summits to be held
in Peru in May and November, respectively. In statements to the
Peruvian press, Peru 's Attorney General claimed that plans for
terrorist activities were discussed at the CCB meeting, an assertion
that seemingly refers to the protests to coincide with the ALC-UE and
CURRENT SOCIAL UNREST IN PERU
In recent months a series of protests have taken place in Peru against
policies of the current government of President Alan Garcia, whose
approval rating in polls hovers around 30%. Protesters reject
government policies related to the eviction of communities from their
agricultural land and territories, water privatization, and
concessions granted to gas, oil, mining, and lumber companies as well
as other free trade initiatives to sell Amazon lands to foreign
companies engaged in these extractive industries.
4 DEAD; 150 ARRESTED
In response the Peruvian government has implemented draconian
legislation to limit protests. On February 18, Peru 's campesino
organizations convoked a national protest which was suspended on
February 20 after four protesters were killed and approximately 150
arrested. Though civil society organizations called for an
investigation of the killings, denouncing that among a series of
repressive legislative measures enacted to deter protests is a decree
which provides impunity to police who kill while deterring protests.
Other measures include a prohibition against the participation of
mayors and authorities in protests, a measure directed particularly
against local campesino, indigenous and non-indigenous authorities who
have been elected at the local level.
"THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE"
Peruvian officials have categorized current social protests, including
those against the proposed Law for the Promotion of Private Investment
in Reforestation and Agroforestry — without irony named by President
Garcia as "the Law of the Jungle" --, as violent actions promoted by
terrorist organizations associated with the subversive groups of the
past and the Venezuelan government.
This proposed law facilitates the sale of Amazonian lands to lumber
companies. In reference to this initiative, President Garcia has been
quoted as stating, "Taking advantage of our timber and reforesting is
a way to generate jobs and attract investment. We live in an
ideological world that says the Amazon cannot be touched, because it
is part of the idyll of primitive communism."
THE ON-GOING CHALLENGES IN POST-CONFLICT PERU
The Peruvian government publicly asserts that current protests are
promoted by members of the armed revolutionary movements who were
active during Peru 's internal armed conflict (1980 -2000) in an
attempt to equate those that protest now with the subversive groups of
These statements, and the related press reports, only serve to
aggravate social and political tensions as Peru continues to deal with
the conflicts' on-going impacts including efforts to search for
justice for the over 69,000 people killed during the conflict,
according the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, implement a
collective reparations program, and legally try former President
Alberto Fujimori and other political figures from his 10-year
presidential term (1990-2000).
Hundreds of people who were sentenced for "terrorism" for their
affiliation with the two subversive groups during the conflict-- the
Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso- SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement (MRTA) -- continue to serve prison sentences which range from
15 years to life. With the current "terrorist" scare, those people
that have been released on parole or after having served their time
(on the average after 14 years or more in prison) face even more
challenges to reincorporate into their society. No law exists to limit
their participation in political life; in fact upon serving their
sentences, they have all the full rights as any other Peruvian citizen
including that to freedom of opinion and expression and the right of
peaceful assembly and association. Nonetheless, former prisoners are
stigmatized and subject to suspicion.
Earlier this year, government officials stated that they would release
a list naming all the people who had served time (including those
acquitted and pardoned), which would be a clear violation of the right
to freedom from discrimination.
One of the seven participants in the CCB meeting arrested on February
29 is a former prisoner who completed his 15-year sentence. His
status as a former prisoner has underpinned government official's
statements linking the CCB to "terrorism" as well as sustaining the
legal charges against all seven Peruvians.
PART OF A REGIONAL CONTEXT: COLOMBIAN CONFLICT AND HOSTILITIES TOWARD VENEZUELA
Following the February 29 arrests of the seven Peruvian citizens,
Peruvian officials began claiming that members of Venezuela 's
government were involved in promoting the CCB and supporting the FARC.
These accusations come at a particularly sensitive moment, as the
internal armed conflict in Colombia continues to have a great impact
on the neighboring countries and people in the Andean region.
On March 1, Colombian military troops entered Ecuador to carry out a
raid on a FARC camp, killing one of its highest commanders and
approximately 20 other people. Reports have circulated in the
international press that information linking the FARC to the
Venezuelan government was collected during the raid. Both Venezuela
and Ecuador stationed armed forces along their Colombian border, and
have denounced the incursion as a violation of sovereignty and an
action carried out with the support of the United States government.
In the US , there have been calls to place the Venezuelan government
on the US government list of states that sponsor terrorism, a step
which would escalate tensions with Venezuela and greatly aggravate
fears of a covert or overt armed intervention by the US in Venezuela .
These recent events have occurred in a context in which the Venezuelan
and Ecuadorian governments were promoting dialog with the FARC focused
on achieving the release of hostages held by the FARC. In January of
this year the unconditional release of two hostages was achieved
through efforts spearheaded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and
with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In February a similar operation, called "Path to Peace", achieved the
release of four more hostages.
Understanding that the recent detentions respond to delicate regional
and national contexts, and have no legal basis, Rights Action solicits
letters of protest against the detention of the seven Peruvians
(Arminda Valladares Saba, Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza, Guadalupe
Alejandrina Hilario Rivas, Maria Gabriel Segura, Carmen Mercedes
Asparrent Riveros, Roque Gonzáles La Rosa and Damaris Velasco Huiza).
PLEASE SEND LETTERS
To the following persons express your concern that the Peruvian
government is violating fundamental human rights through the
incarceration of its citizens for participating in a political
meetings and protests. This distortion of the concept of terrorism to
include social organizing and protest undermines the essential
principals of democracy and human rights.
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Telephone: +41 22 917 90 00
President Alan Garcia
President of the Republic of Peru
Palacio de Gobierno
Plaza Mayor, Lima 1, PERÚ
Embassy of Perú
United States of America
1700 Mass. Ave, NW
Washington DC, 20036
Tel : (202) 833-9860
Fax: (202) 659-8124
Embassy of Perú
130 Albert Street Suite 1901
Ottawa , Ontario , Canada , K1P 5G4
* * *
To Whom It May Concern:
I am extremely concerned that the recent arrests of Peruvian Citizens
Arminda Valladares Saba, Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza, Guadalupe
Alejandrina Hilario Rivas, Maria Gabriel Segura y Carmen Mercedes
Asparrent Riveros, Roque Gonzáles La Rosa and Damaris Velasco Huiza,
in Tumbes on February 29 on charges of of Affiliation and
Collaboration in Terrorism constitutes a violation of fundamental
human rights and undermines democracy in Peru.
In detaining its citzens for participation in a public, civil
political event, the Peruvian government is violating fundamental
human rights through the incarceration of its citizens for
participating in a political meetings and protests.
This distortion of the concept of terrorism to include social
organizing and protest undermines the essential principals of
democracy and human rights.
Please re-distribute this info all around.
Repression in Peru intensifies
By Hugo Blanco
March 4, 2008 -- Not long ago repression in Peru was more a matter of laws than actions. Now, however, APRA's legislation (APRA is President Alan García's party), with basic support from the ultra-rightist Unidad Nacional party, and from the party of Fujimori, who is now being tried for massive crimes, and with no consequent parliamentary opposition, is being used to launch a full assault against the people.
The law ordered the army to undertake policing functions. It characterises protest actions as delinquencies. And it authorised the police to kill with impunity.
The legislation was passed to frighten people who, naturally, were going to protest government conduct in the service of the huge multinationals, a role that runs totally against the interests of the Peruvian population and the environment.
However, the reaction of the people was to overcome fear and hurl themselves into struggle. The campesino strike was the strongest of the most recent mobilisations at the national level.
Campesinos are being crushed by increases in living costs aggravated by the miserable prices they receive for their products, by lack of credit, higher fertiliser prices, etc.
The government talks a lot about its ``Sierra exportadora'' project. But what it has brought in practice (with the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States which subsidises its agriculture) is an agrarian policy of ``Peru – importer of agrarian produce''.
The campesino strike was answered with repressive legislation that was put to use. The police fired at the heads of the demonstrators. Victims' bodies revealed two or three bullet holes in the nape which indicates that the shots came from behind. That is counter to the version of the police who acknowledge that the dead had bullet wounds. But Interior Minister Luis Alva –- who is politically responsible for the killings -– says, with no proof at all, that the demonstrators died from shotgun fire, and that in other cases demonstrators seized arms from the police to kill each other.
We know that despite their lies they won't be censured. The majority of the parliamentary chamber members, no matter what party they're from, are agreed that everything must be one to defend the big multinational firms against grassroots protests.
There have been many attacks on the people. The main thing for them is the political, juridical and police defence of the multinational mining companies against the Peruvian population and nature.
As well, the government has a project to take away the lands of campesino communities. It is called ``the law of the jungle'' that is privatising the Amazon region without respecting in any way the populations living there, and as a consequence are faced with the depredation of the zone. The government wants to privatise water, the ports, put down the teachers and renege on signed promises to increase public service wages. It is beginning to privatise our archeological patrimony.
Faced with complaints against the rising cost of living, the government, through Mulder, the general secretary of APRA, claims that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is to blame for hunger in Peru.
The nation's chief prosecutor has reported that he has charged and called for the detention of 207 people because of the agricultural strike. And that 33 of them have thus far been sentenced in Huaura.
Charges have been filed against many other social fighters. They include the coordinator of the Cusco Regional Assembly and the leader of the Cusco Civil Construction Union, charged for their involvement in blockades and mobilisations of the people of Cusco in defense of their cultural patrimony. Ex-presidential candidate Ollanta Humala has been accused of responsibility for these mobilisations, but he has had nothing to do with them.
There are many other people charged in relation to different struggles at the national level.
The most recent scare
We are now confronted with the surprise that in Tumbes, on the border with Ecuador, seven presumed terrorists have been arrested for ``preparing terrorist actions against the summit meetings to take place soon in Peru [in May, European and American Heads of State will hold a European, Latin American and Caribbean Summit; and in November there will be a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum] and for having relations with the Colombian FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] and the MRTA [Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement] in Peru.''
Who are these terrible `terrorists'?
They are people who were returning to Peru after attending a public meeting in Quito that ended in a march in the streets of the Ecuadoran capital –- the Second Congress of the Bolivarian Continental Coordinadoa (Coordinating Network) which took place from February 24 to 28. Representatives came from various countries of the continent, including Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. There were also European delegations from Germany, Italy and the Basque Country.
It is clear that this results from an order from Bush that is being loyally followed. One of the decisions of the meeting was to call for recognition of the FARC as a belligerent force to facilitate talks towards peace in Colombia. But that does not necessarily mean identification or contact with the FARC.
To our knowledge no other participant in that meeting has been arrested in any other country, and accused of being ``dangerous terrorists''.
We call on national and international public opinion to be on the alert about this intensified repression in Peru, and to demonstrate opposition to it in every way possible, and for solidarity with the just demands of our people, victims of the regime’s submission to multinational enterprises.
[Translated by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer. Hugo Blanco was leader of the Quechua peasant uprising in the Cuzco region of Peru in the early 1960s. He was captured by the military and sentenced to 25 years in El Fronton Island prison for his activities, but an international defence campaign won his freedom. He continues to play an active role in Peru's indigenous, campesino and environmental movements, and writes on Peruvian, indigenous and Latin American issues.]
March 22, 2008