Tuesday, October 02, 2007

September Headlines

A lot of interesting things have happened here during the past month. A large meteorite fell near Puno in the southernmost part of the country, leaving a crater 7 meters deep and 20 meters wide. After the local residents got over the shock and disproved the many rumors about toxic fumes and radioactivity coming from the site, they decided to make it a tourist site. They´ve built a fence around it to keep out treasure hunters and they´re going to put a roof over it to prevent erosion. But someone has convinced them that they should bring in a bulldozer and remove the meteor. Whether they´re planning to break it into pieces to sell to the tourists, or put it on display, I don´t know.

There was a referendum in several towns in the department of Piura over whether the residents want a mining company to begin operations there. The result was a resounding NO. A similar referendum was just completed in Ecuador with the same result. The last (and only other such) referendum in Peru produced a similar result despite intensive efforts by both the government and the mining company. This time the government claims that it isn´t bound by the results of the vote because of some technicality in the way it was organized, but a team of 30 international observers say that the voting was conducted fairly. Recently the Interior Ministry has proposed a new law that would make it possible for the goverment to take control over common use lands for purposes of national security. They claim it has nothing to do with the mine, but many suspect that it has everything to do with it, and that shortly the central government will take over the proposed mining site and lease it to the mining company.

Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori was finally extradited to Peru by Chile, where he´s been living under house arrest for more than a year after returning to South America with the intention of joining the presidential race. The irony is that the man he ousted from office and exiled from the country, Alan Garcia, is now president of Peru again, having won the election last year. So I don´t think Mr. Fujimori will be getting any breaks.

The long awaited mandatory vehicle inspections which were made law more than 19 years ago have finally become a reality. After years of legal wrangling over how and when and by whom the inspections would be performed, the city of Lima finally opened two processing centers, one in the far north of the city and the other in the far south, each capable of processing about a couple hundred vehicles per day. I don´t know how many vehicles there are in Lima, but there are about 8 million people, so even if everyone rode the buses, I don´t think they could inspect each vehicle once every year at that rate -- and the law requires publlic transit vehicles to be inspected twice per year! But capacity is only one of the issues to be solved. Mototaxis (mini taxis made from converted motorcycles) are also required to be inspected, but they´re not even allowed to drive on the major throughways, so how do they get to the inspection centers? So far the majority of vehicles have failed the tests, which include safety, structural integrity and emissions, Transit companies are complaining about the cost of the inspections and the long waits, but I think what really pisses them off is that they can´t find an inspector who will just accept a couple of extra bucks under the counter to let them pass the inspection.

A formerly unknown tribe of indigenouse people (known here as ¨uncontacted people¨) was observed by a helicopter flying over a region in the Amazon area. The sighting came at a very inconvenient time for a mining company which was in the middle of filing an environmental impact statement for a new development, and had claimed that the area was unpopulated.

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