Monday, March 31, 2008

WNU #941: Crackdown on Peruvian Leftists

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #941, March 30, 2008

1. Peru: Crackdown on Leftists
2. Argentina: Farmers Strike Continues

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: Crackdown on Leftists
As of Mar. 25, the government of Peruvian president Alan García had arrested nine leftist activists in less than month, charging that they were planning terrorist acts or were funded by the government of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías.

The Antiterrorist Directorate of the National Police of Peru (PNP) arrested seven activists on Feb. 29 as they were trying to return to Peru after attending a Feb. 24-27 conference of the leftist Bolivarian Continental Coordination (CCB) in Quito. The PNP claims the CCB supports two rebel groups, Peru's Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to PNP director general Octavio Salazar, the activists were planning to sabotage two summits to be held in Peru this year: the Latin American-European Union (ALC-UE) in May and the Asian Pacific Cooperation (APEC) in November. One of those arrested, Roque Gonzales La Rosa, served eight years in prison for the kidnapping of a Bolivian politician. The arrests came the day before an attack by the Colombian military on a FARC camp in Ecuadoran territory which set off a brief diplomatic crisis between Colombia and the left-leaning governments of Ecuador and Venezuela [see Updates #937, 939, 940].

Two more CCB members were arrested on Mar. 17 as they were allegedly trying to deposit $65,000 from Ecuador; Peruvian authorities said they suspected the money came from Venezuela. CCB founder Fernando Rivero told media in Venezuela that the group is autonomous and receives no support from Chávez's government.

Meanwhile, a congressional committee has begun investigating the Centers of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas ("Casas de ALBA," referring to a trade bloc promoted by Venezuela and Cuba). This is a nongovernmental organization with 150 offices in Peru providing medical attention to poor Peruvians, often by Cuban doctors in Bolivia and Venezuela. Its spokespeople deny receiving funds from Venezuela. Antiterrorism prosecutor Julio Galindo charged that "countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Guatemala" were trying "one way or another to destabilize" Peru. But former interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi said García's government was exaggerating the influence of the ALBA centers and the CCB "to make the public believe that the social movements which are being created by other causes are coming from a foreign influence."

The North American group Rights Action is calling for letters to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights (email, and Peru's embassies in Canada (fax 613-232-3062, email and the US (fax 202-659-8124, to "express...concern that the Peruvian government is violating fundamental human rights through the incarceration of its citizens for participating in political meetings and protests." (El Comercio (Quito) 3/1/08 from EFE; Notiver (Veracruz, Mexico) 3/25/08 from AP; Rights Action alert 3/22/08)

*2. Argentina: Farmers Strike Continues
Argentine farmer groups and the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner held six hours of talks on Mar. 28 aimed at ending a 16-day-old producers' strike that had restricted food supplies in major cities. Strike supporters lifted some of the blockades they had maintained on highways throughout the country, but more radical sectors said this was only a 48-hour truce and stayed at their positions at highway entrances.

The producers were protesting Fernández de Kirchner's increase in taxes on soy, a major export crop for Argentina. The president, from the left wing of the populist Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist), insisted that she would not give in to "extortion" from the producers. She noted that many of the strikers were very wealthy and contrasted their "protests of abundance" with the "protests of poverty" in the early 2000s when "thousands of Argentines [were] blocking streets and highways because they needed work," along with middle-class demonstrators who had lost their savings in the 2001 financial crisis. According to Argentine journalist Stella Calloni, the strike is led by the far-right Argentine Rural Society. Strike supporters held a protest in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires the evening of Mar. 25. Calloni says most of the 5,000 protesters beating on pots and pans were from the capital's richest neighborhoods. Some activists referred to the strike support actions as "fashion protests."

The government has been backed by many activist groups, including the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA). A Maoist and a Trotskyist group were backing the strike, although not its rightwing leadership. Many groups, including the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Movement (MST), rejected both the government and the strike. The National Picketer ("Piquetero") Bloc said: "[W]e working people and broad sectors of the middle class find ourselves like the salami in the sandwich in this conflict of the 'country' against the government... No one cares about the situation of the people." (La Jornada (Mexico) 3/26/08, 3/27/08, 3/28/08, 3/29/08 from correspondent; Prensa de Frente (Argentina) 3/28/08)

Correction: In the original version we inadvertently called the MST the "Movement Toward Socialism"; see Update #960.

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