Wednesday, January 05, 2005

News Brief from Peru - "Rebellion" in Andahuaylas...

Don't know if any of this has filtered through to the ourside world - it was on CNN en español, but hadn't been picked up by the AP...some of you might find it interesting anyway....

While we were sunning ourselves and eating the world's best olives in warm, tranquil Arica over New Year, a group of young army reservists led by a former Peruvian army major and aspiring politician Antauro Humala took over a police station in Andahuaylas, between Ayacucho and Cusco, and 832 km southeast of Lima. Four police officers were killed by the group, who espouse an ideology called "etnocacerism" and demanded the resignation of Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo.

The rebels had originally planned to attack two army bases near Andahuaylas, but on discovering that the bases were on alert, opted for the police station, which was unguarded but held a substantial store of arms. The takeover was apparently achieved without a shot being fired, but the four officers were killed later when they tried to approach the station.

A standoff followed as the rebels held 17 police officers hostage and Peruvian police and army units surrounded the area. Crowds of people gathered in the streets, largely in support of the rebels, and formed barricades near the police station, blocking the approaches. Meanwhile, mediation efforts were underway, led by the Ombudsman's office and the parish priest.

Antauro Humala is being depicted by the national papers as something of a charlatan and an opportunist. His brother, Ollanta Humala, has been a military attache in France and South Korea and is supposed to have been behind some shady events including a "staged" uprising in 2000. Antauro at one point received 6% in a presidential poll but has recently dropped out of view, and it's being said that the events in Andahuaylas are an attempt to gain political attention and leverage.

The Etnocaceristas are described as having an "ultranationalist" ideology. From what I can make out, it's a crude mix of indigenous resentment, and xenophobia directed in particular at Chile and the United States. "Etno" is "ethno", and "cacerista" comes from Andrés A. Cáceres, a Peruvian hero of the 1879-1883 war against Chile. (see the full translated newswire article below). Of course, Humala is not himslef indigenous, and was educated in the Franco-Peruvian college. Unsurprisingly, his main adherents are young, little educated, unemployed men.

Early afternoon yesterday (3 Jan), after negotations had broken down a couple of times and various incidents had left one of the rebels dead, Humala gave himself up, along with 50 of his comrades, in the municipality of Andahuaylas. Other reservists remained barricaded in the police station with the hostages until this morning, when they also gave themselves up.

The whole episode was brief and seemingly pointless, but worrying, in that it presents a precedent and model for other groups to vent their frustration or make a name for themselves. It's hardly the best thing for Peru.

Meanwhile in Arequipa...

The events in Andahuaylas had also triggered off unrest in other regions of Peru. We arrived back here yesterday a little past midnight and this morning the streets were tranquil, giving no indication of the events of yesterday. I was updated by the girls at the agencia and the newspaper, accordng to whom things had gotten a little ugly. Three thousand protesters and a handful of members of the etnocacerist movement gathered in the centre of the city around the plaza de armas. The rowdy protests got a bit out of hand when news came through that in Andahuaylas Humala had reneged on a previous decision to surrender.

In a fit of excitement and jubilation, the protesters started ripping up stones from the plaza and forming barricades. The police responded by dispersing the crowd with tear-gas bombs. According to the paper, the worst-affected were children and old people who happened to be passing through the area at the time, and suffered breathing problems. There were seven arrests made.

La Republica reported that "tourism shouldn't be affected" by the incidents, as it was all over fairly quickly. I can make an assurance to the contrary, however. Prior to going to Arica, Tessy and I had responded to a request from an agency in Cuzco who had 14 tourists wanting to do four days in Arequipa. We put together a programme, worked out a budget and provided the programme and proposed price to the Cuzco agency. On my arrival back here Lizbeth informed me that the tourists had accepted and were all set to come. However, news of the disturbances in Arequipa filtered through to them and, anxious for their security, they decided to cancel. Instead they will be heading for Bolivia. That's a loss of what would have been a considerable earning for our agency, not to mention the about $3200 cash that it now not going to be spent in Peru. You hardly need the tear gas to make you want to cry...

Some Background...

This is quite interesting. I've translated it directly from the online news service.

Lima, 4 Jan (EFE).- Antauro Humala, leader of the ultranationalist movement "Etnocacerista", which took over a police station in the Peruvian city of Andahuaylasm, told EFE, hours before being arrested, that he compares his actions with those of the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and of Ecuador, Lucio Guitiérrez.

Humala indicated in a telephone conversation with EFE that the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan presidents, who led military coups in their respective countries before governing them, "represent a generation of officers who seek to stamp out the corruption of the military class stemming from the School of the Americas in Panama controlled by Washington".

While denying that his uprising has electoral ends, Huamla noted that "we are officers of medium rank who want to put an end to the moral collapse of the old generation of soldiers in Latin America who are linked to narcotrafficking and other war crimes".

The retired major and leader of the ultranationalist movement "Etnocacerista", who defends executions as an effective method to get rid of corrupt politicians, said that he acknowledged that Chavez "has revolutionary and historic merit, because he stands firm against the pressures of the United States".

Commenting on the issue, the ex-minister of the Interior Fernando Rospigliosi said that "Humala wants to imitate the spectacular actions of other Latin American military officers like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador, who made coup attempts which catapulted them to popularity and ended up winnign elections".

Peru began the year 2005 shaken by the takeover of a police station in Andahuaylas (832 km from Lima) by some 150 members of the ultranationalist movement "Etnocacerista", who took control of a large stock of arms, held 17 police hostage and killed four.

Antauro Humala indicated that the uprising was intended to demand the resignation of the Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, who has a 9% approval rating according to the latest polls.

Regarding the date of the rebellion, which coincides with the Cuban revolutionary victory in 1959 and that of the "zapatistas" in Mexico in 1994, Antauro Humala acknowedged that he chose the date "because we knew we would find the police unprepared after the New Year festivities"

Humala, who may face charges for the rebellion that imply an average of 25 years in prison, revealed that he chose Andahuaylas to begin his rebellion because "in Peruvian history it was the epicentre of the rebellion by the Chanca culture against the Incas (13th century) and the peasant army which liberated Lima from the Chileans was formed in 1883".

He emphasized that he is "afraid of death" but that he "has spiritual peace which allows his participation in this historic movement which has already achieved its revolutionary task".

According to unofficial figures, the followers of Humala in the marginal zones of Lima, Ayacucho, Tacna, Moquegua, Arequipa, Puno and Apurimac reach 4,000 persons, who are mainly youth with few resources, little education and without any possibility of finding employment.

"Etnocacerismo" takes its name from the marshall and ex-president of Peru Andrés A. Cáceres, hero of the war against Chile (1879-1883), and feeds on xenophobia againstChile, the United Sates and Israel with a discourse which uses the terms of indigenous complaints and demands.

The chief "etnocacerista", a retired major, and his brother, Ollanta Humala, a retired commandant, took part in 2000 in an uprising against the president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), who quit the presidency of the Peru in that year in the midst of accusations of corruption.

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