Monday, March 24, 2008

WNU #940: Peruvian Indigenous Seize Oil Field, Ecuador IDs Colombian Bombs

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #940, March 23, 2008

1. Peru: Indigenous Seize Oil Field
2. Peru: Ex-Officer Loses Massacre Suit
3. Ecuador: ID Bombs Used on FARC Camp

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. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Peru: Indigenous Seize Oil Field
At least two people were killed and 12 wounded on Mar. 22 in Peru's northeastern Loreto department in clashes between police and mostly Achuar indigenous workers who had been occupying installations on the Pluspetrol Norte oil company's lot 1AB since Mar. 20 in a labor dispute. The clashes occurred after the workers attempted to take over the Andoas airport on Mar. 22; they were then removed by police agents, who stayed to patrol the area.

According to a National Police communiqué, indigenous people firing shotguns killed police officer Jaime Armando Reyna Ruiz and wounded 11 other agents who were on patrol. Police colonel Armando Martínez said one worker was also killed. An indigenous leader, César García, said on the Radio Programas del Perú (RPP) radio network that in fact two indigenous people were killed, while Loreto departmental president Iván Vásquez told the media that 27 people had been detained. Outside agitators were "detected...inciting the natives to attack the police," according to Vásquez.

There have been a number of disputes between Pluspetrol and the Achuar communities [see Updates #838, 872]. In October the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes River (Feconaco) threatened to occupy oil wells if the company failed to comply with agreements it signed in 2006 relating to environmental issues and social programs. Local communities occupied some facilities in January. In the current dispute the workers are demanding a 50% wage increase. Pluspetrol, which is largely owned by Argentines, said it was in negotiations with the communities before talks were broken off because of the Mar. 20 occupation. The company said it was losing 23,000 barrels a day because of the occupation; the usual daily production is 47,000 barrels, according to Pluspetrol. (AFP 3/23/08; El Comercio (Ecuador) 3/23/08 from EFE; La República (Lima) 3/23/08)

*2. Peru: Ex-Officer Loses Massacre Suit
On Mar. 5 US District Judge Adalberto Jordan in Miami ordered retired Peruvian army major Telmo Ricardo Hurtado to pay $37 million to two survivors of a 1985 massacre in which soldiers under Hurtado's direct command killed 69 indigenous campesinos, mostly women and children, in the highlands village of Accomarca. The plaintiffs, Teófila Ochoa and Cirila Pulido, survived the massacre as teenagers, losing many of their close relatives. They sued Hurtado, who fled to the US in 2002, under the 1789 Alien Torts Statute; the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) represented them [see Update #935]. The $37 million award is mostly symbolic; Hurtado is currently in immigration detention.

Three Peruvian military units, led by officers Juan Rivera, David Castañeda and Luis Robles, backed up Hurtado's unit during the 1985 massacre. Rivera, currently in immigration detention in Maryland, is also being sued by Accomarca survivors with support from the CJA. Castañeda lives in Boston, where he has repeatedly applied for political asylum. Robles is still an active duty army officer in Peru, although his movements have been restricted because of an investigation by the courts. (Inter Press Service 3/5/08)

*3. Ecuador: ID Bombs Used on FARC Camp
Citing unnamed sources in the Ecuadoran Air Force (FAE), on Mar. 21 the Quito daily El Comercio reported that US "smart bombs" of the sort the US fired at Iraqi targets during the 1991 Gulf War were the ones the Colombian military used in a Mar. 1 attack on a camp of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadoran territory. More than 20 people were killed, including FARC second-in-command Raúl Reyes and four visiting Mexican students [see Updates #937, 939].

The FAE sources reportedly said the camp was hit with 10 GBU 12 Paveway II bombs, 500-pound laser-guided weapons made by the US; the same sources said these bombs are not usually part of the arsenal employed with Brazilian Supertucano airplanes or Israeli Kfirs, the planes favored by the Colombian Air Force. The Colombian military insists that it used conventional bombs, fired from eight of its planes: five Supertucanos and three US-built A-37 planes. Ecuadoran authorities also are questioning the reasons for the flight of an HC-130 airplane, used for refueling helicopters, from the US base at Manta, Ecuador, just hours before the Mar. 1 attack. On Mar. 20 the ABN agency distributed a FARC communiqué, dated Mar. 14, charging that the US Southern Command had led the attack. The FARC also denied that Reyes' computer could have survived the bombing, "which pulverized everything around it." The Colombian government has charged that the computer has files compromising the Ecuadoran and Venezuelan governments. (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/21/08 from AFP, DPA, Prensa Latina; 3/22/08 from AFP, DPA, Notimex; AFP 3/23/08)

On Mar. 17 the Bogotá daily El Tiempo published a photograph, supposedly from a laptop computer found at the FARC camp, which it said showed Reyes together with Ecuadoran internal and external security minister Gustavo Larrea. It was in fact a picture of Patricio Etchegaray, general secretary of the Communist Party of Argentina, who said he had a long interview with Reyes three years ago at a rebel camp. El Tiempo issued a retraction in the afternoon, saying its information came from the Colombian police. El Tiempo is partly owned by the Santos family, which currently has two members in the government: Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón and Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. (LJ 3/18/08 from DPA, AFP, Reuters)

Relations remained tense between Ecuador and Colombia, which have not resumed normal diplomatic relations since just after the Mar. 1 attack. On Mar. 21 Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa said the situation would get worse if it was true that one of the 23 people killed in the attack was Franklin Aizalia Molina, an Ecuadoran mechanic who lived with his parents in Quito. The parents said photographs of a body identified as that of FARC negotiator, propagandist and songwriter "Julián Conrado" (Guillermo Enrique Torres) were really of their son, who had disappeared around the time of the attack. The Ecuadoran government was to send a delegation of officials and relatives of Aizalia Molina to Bogotá on Mar. 24 to present fingerprints and genetic material to help establish the body's identity. (LJ 3/23/08 from Prensa Latina, DPA, AFP)

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