Peru: Morning News Roundup – Thursday February 21

Journalist says former Peru president offered amnesty to death squad leader

Former President Alberto Fujimori offered the chief of a military death squad amnesty in return for his surrender to a military court, a journalist testified Wednesday at the ex-president’s trial. Major Santiago Martin Rivas spoke of Fujimori’s secret offer in an unrecorded interview with journalist Gilberto Hume, the journalist said. The interview was conducted while Rivas was in hiding, according to Hume. If true, Hume’s testimony marks the first time a former member of the Colina death squad has claimed to have met with Fujimori, who is now on trial for allegedly authorizing two Colina massacres that killed 25 people in 1991 and 1992. Fujimori, who faces up to 30 years in prison, strongly rejected Hume’s claims. (AP – click here to read complete article)

Peru Farmers End Two-Day Protest; Talks to Resume

Peruvian farmers ended a two-day protest that disrupted transportation and left five dead and hundreds under arrest, the government cabinet chief said today. The government, which yesterday declared a state of emergency in three areas after protesters battled police and blocked roads, airports and railway lines, will resume talks with farming organizations, Jorge del Castillo said. “There will be dialogue,” del Castillo told reporters in Lima. “But we will press ahead with penal sanctions against those who took control of highways and attacked passengers.” Farmers called the nationwide protest to push for state subsidies as part of a free-trade agreement with the U.S., for lower prices on fertilizer and for a halt to farm seizures by banks. Peru, the world’s largest exporter of organic coffee, asparagus and paprika, boosted agricultural exports to the U.S. and China by 10 percent to $2 billion last year. (Bloomberg – click here to read complete article by Alex Emery)

Poverty Provides Growing Number of ‘Drug Mules’

Anti-drug police at Peru’s "Jorge Chávez" international airport in Lima have had their hands full over the last year, arresting nearly two "mules" a day, each carrying an average of five kg of pure cocaine. In 2005, 249 "mules" or drug couriers were arrested. In 2006 there were 454 arrests, and last year the number rose to 721, carrying a total of nearly four tons of cocaine, the police National Anti-Drug Directorate told IPS. The usual method is to swallow some 10 packets or capsules, each containing 100 grams of cocaine. But often larger quantities are carried, with the drug hidden under false bottoms in luggage, camouflaged in different kinds of containers, or attached to the body with adhesive tape. Of the 721 smugglers arrested in 2007, 62.4 percent (453) were Peruvian and the rest were foreigners, particularly from Spain (45), the Netherlands (29) and Brazil (18). Over three-quarters of the Peruvian "mules" were poor or unemployed. According to the histories of detainees taken by the anti-drug police at the airport, the going rate paid by drug traffickers to couriers who swallow cocaine packets and are sent to Brazil or Argentina is about 1,000 dollars. (IPS News – click here to read complete article by Ángel Páez)

Peru plans renewable energy investment

The Peruvian government is trying to stimulate investment and large-scale use of renewable energies to reduce its dependence on petroleum. The Ministry of Energy and Mines announced earlier this month (7 February) that it will present a portfolio of 35 projects in March during the meeting of the Energy Work Group of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), in Iquitos. The projects would require the investment US$35 billion over 15 years. Most are still in the planning stage, to be developed in partnership with governments and private enterprises. Deputy minister of energy, Pedro Gamio, told SciDev.Net that the goal is to reduce the commercial use of petroleum in Peru to 25 per cent of 2004 levels by 2011. Thus far the country has decreased petroleum use from 70 to 55 per cent of 2004 levels, mainly by increasing the use of gas. (SciDev – click here to read complete article by Zoraida Portillo)

Le Cordon Bleu International Celebrates International Year of the Potato in Ottawa

Under the High Patronage of His Honorable David A Walden, Secretary General to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and the Patronage of the United Nations Association of Canada, Le Cordon Bleu International will celebrate on February 21st the International Year of the Potato in Ottawa. A private ceremony will be held at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute on February 21st 2008 for this celebration. The program consists of a Press Conference at 4:30 PM followed by a culinary demonstration where guest chef José Meza from Le Cordon Bleu Peru will demonstrate the many delights of the potato. At 6:00 PM a reception featuring the potato will take place in the salle Cointreau followed by "The Potato: A Hidden Treasure" Gala Dinner at 6:30 PM in Le Cordon Bleu Signatures 5 Diamond Restaurant in Ottawa. (eMediaWire – click here to read complete press release)