Peru: Morning News Roundup – Tuesday March 18

Japan, Peru to Sign $300 Million Loan Agreements, Garcia Says

Japan and Peru are scheduled to sign loan agreements totaling $300 million this week, Peru’s government said. Peru’s President Alan Garcia will sign the loan accords after meeting in Tokyo with Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Emperor Akihito, according to a statement on Peru’s presidential Web site. The loans include $221 million for infrastructure projects including drinking water and sewage treatment facilities, the statement said. Japan will also donate $8 million to reconstruction work on the southern Peruvian coast, which was devastated by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in August. Garcia is on a week-long trip to Japan and China to spur free-trade agreements with both countries. (Bloomberg – click here to see article by Alex Emery)

Peru arrests 2 carrying $150,000 over Ecuador border, suggests Venezuelan link

Authorities arrested two Peruvians on Monday as they tried to enter the country from Ecuador carrying some $150,000 in cash, and a top official said they are linked to groups that may be funded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government. "This morning police captured two individuals, one carrying $50,000 and the other $100,000," President Alan Garcia’s Cabinet chief, Jorge del Castillo, said in a meeting with foreign journalists. "Where did they get it?" A congressional investigation concluded last week that Venezuela likely funds Peruvian leftist groups, including organizations backing a trade bloc promoted by Chavez as an alternative to U.S.-sponsored trade initiatives. A spokeswoman at the Venezuelan Embassy in Lima said nobody was immediately available to respond to del Castillo’s comments. (AP – click here to read complete article)

Peru accuses Venezuela’s Chavez of meddling

Peru’s prime minister accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday of secretly financing leftist causes in the country to spread his brand of socialism in Latin America. Jorge del Castillo said Chavez was behind scores of humanitarian centers in Peru linked to the ALBA trade group of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua that opposes U.S.-style free-trade agreements. Peruvian police believe some of the humanitarian centers are fronts for a political group called the Continental Bolivarian Committee, whose Web site praises militants. (Reuters – click here to read complete article by Terry Wade and Marco Aquino)

Peru government slams independence moves by Puno

The Peruvian government on Monday rejected statements by the governor of its Puno province that the region is on its way to becoming independent from the central government. "Peru is a united state, as signaled in its republican tradition and its constant constitutional tradition," said Jorge del Castillo, president of Peru’s Council of Ministers. "If (Puno province governor Hernan) Fuentes, who by the way does not even have 5-percent approval rates in Puno, is really trying to create a separate state, then that is a seditious attitude," he said. Castillo said that sedition was the best explanation for Puno’s decision to pass a rule in favor of coca-leaf production, even though 95 percent of the crop, some 1,500 hectares, is used to make illegal cocaine, while the remaining 5 percent is bought by state company Enaco. (Xinhua – click here to read complete article)

Peruvians eat potato bread amid rising cost of wheat flour

Peru’s military has begun eating bread made from potatoes, a native crop, to combat a rise in food prices partly fueled by the cost of loaves made from imported wheat, Defense Minister Antero Flores-Araoz said. "Wheat isn’t produced here, it’s imported, and every day it costs more," Flores-Araoz told reporters at Lima army base, surrounded by potato baguettes, braided potato loaves and mini-potato croissants. Wheat prices have risen 35 percent in the last year to US$1.27 (€0.81) per kilogram (US$0.58; €0.37 a pound), fueling a 40 percent increase in bread prices, according to the National Statistics Institute. Those gains play a small role in driving the nation’s 4.8 percent annual inflation, but Peru has seized on the rising price of wheat bread to promote potatoes, creating jobs in the impoverished highlands where the tubers are grown. (AP – click here to read complete article)