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Peru

Society

Urban Indigenous: How Peru's Shipibo-Conibo Keep Amazon Culture Alive In The City

For four years, indigenous photographer David Díaz Gonzales has documented the lives and movements of his Shipibo-Conibo community, as many of them migrated from their native Peruvian Amazon to the city. A work of remembrance and resistance.

YARINACOCHA — It was decades ago when the Shipibo-Conibo left their settlements along the banks of the Ucayali River, in eastern Peru, to begin a great migration to the cities. Still among the largest Amazonian communities in Peru — 32,964 according to the Ministry of Culture — though most Shipibo-Conibo now live in the urban district of Yarinacocha.

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How Altered Consciousness Is Changing Psychiatry

From self-induced trance to psychedelics, altered states of consciousness are experiencing a renewed interest in the scientific community for their therapeutic value.

GENEVA — Swiss psychiatrist Valérie Picard describes her weekly trance practice as being plunged into a feeling of intense happiness: “I often find myself parachuted into magnificent natural landscapes. With a feeling of weightlessness all my perceptions are amplified, in a kind of ecstasy of the senses”

Working at the Belmont Clinic in Geneva, she does not, however, have the sort of profile of someone traditionally interested in these techniques. These explorations of states of consciousness are still considered by many to be controversial.

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The Power Of A Child's Imagination To Bring The Amazon Back To Life

Illegal mining and deforestation are destroying parts of the Amazon and devastating indigenous people's lives. As laws and governments fail to protect the environment and vulnerable communities, locals have turned to the imagination of the future generation.

What do the children of the Amazon dream of? How do they observe the destruction of the forests around them? How do they imagine those areas if the situation were different? Ojo Público supported a local effort that brought together a group of children from the Awajún indigenous community in northern Peru to draw on photographs of devastated forests the elements that they imagined should be there.

Illegal activities are destroying the forests of the Amazon and polluting its rivers. On the landscapes destroyed by illegal mining and deforestation, they painted huge trees, plants, animals in the forest and fish in pristine rivers.

"The trees suffer," says Suely Apika, a 12-year-old Awajún girl, while she draws a hunting scene in the forest on top of a photograph of an empty terrain. Where there were once trees, now only a yellowish mud remains.

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In Brazil, A New Gambit In 5G Battle Between U.S. And China

A recent tender for Brazil's 5G network once again highlighted the growing rivalry between the two superpowers. Now, the Biden administration may even have a formula to free countries of their debt to Beijing.

-Analysis-

LIMA — Competition between countries to acquire and sell cutting-edge technologies could become an intractable feature of the economic rivalry pitting China against the United States. One crucial part of that conflict would be over the fifth generation of communication technologies — known as 5G, which allows information transfers 10 times faster than the current 4G.

We already have examples of how the Superpower rivalry could unfold in Latin America. The most notable case recently (for the size of the market concerned) was the tender put out for Brazil's 5G network. The process had to be postponed due to disagreements between the U.S. and Brazilian governments around a possible role here of the Chinese firm Huawei.

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Economy
Laura Villahermosa

The Pandemic Changed How Latin Americans Work — And Where

Once dismissed as being for millennials and hard-up freelancers, coworking firms now occupy Latin America's prestigious corporate towers that have more and more spaces to fill.

LIMA — When workers left their offices in March 2020, with a global pandemic in full swing, nobody knew when they would be back. As firms and workers began warming to working from home weeks into lockdowns and confinement regimes, the real estate sector trembled at the prospect of a massive downturn in demand for office space.

In Latin America, use of corporate office space had already been changing before the pandemic, with the demand for shared offices taking off in 2015-2018. The U.S.-based firm WeWork was one of the beneficiaries. "We had 70% occupation levels before the pandemic," says Claudio Hidalgo, head of WeWork in Latin America.

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Society
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Rio Carnival Canceled, No Vax Djokovic, Macron & La Merde

👋 Muraho!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where the Omicron variant keeps breaking daily infection records around the world, violent protests lead Kazakhstan to declare state of emergency, and France’s Macron is in la merde for his vulgar warning to unvaccinated people. Meanwhile, we look at Denmark’s plans to rent prison cells abroad, and what this could mean for the future of imprisonment and law enforcement around the world.

[*Kinyarwanda - Rwanda]

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Peru
Carlos Escaffi

Peru: Will The Real José Pedro Castillo Please Stand Up?

A source of major concern for investors and the economic and political elite, Peru's freshly-inaugurated leftist president is now trying to make nice. What happens next, though, is anybody's guess.

-Analysis-

LIMA — Forty three days after the last votes were cast in Peru's presidential runoff, the country's electoral authority officially proclaimed as president-elect José Pedro Castillo Terrones, a socialist schoolteacher from Cajamarca in northern Peru. His inauguration, on July 28, coincides with the 200th anniversary of Peru's independence.

This was a narrow victory that had to ride a wave of challenges and calls to recount votes from Castillo's rival, Keiko Fujimori.

The 51-year-old Castillo is a Catholic and the spouse, for 21 years, to Lilia Paredes, also a teacher though evangelical. He has three children. In his youth, he was a member of the village "patrols' or rondas that kept the peace in the countryside and later resisted the violent Shining Path insurgency in the 1980s. He represents a break, in other words, from the country's ruling elite, established parties and dominant economic groups, and reached the presidency on the back of the votes of the Andean peasantry.

Castillo is giving representation to a sector of the population that has mostly been excluded from the country's socio-economic system.

Castillo is giving representation to a sector of the population that has mostly been excluded from the country's socio-economic system, and his discourse offers them hope of inclusion finally in a country that is often reluctant to give them visibility and recognition. His message centers around simple declarations such as "No more paupers in a rich country," statements directed at all those who have for decades felt sidelined and unseen, and that raise considerable social and welfare expectations.

While campaigning, the president-elect promised reforms to healthcare, education and farming, but also a million jobs a year. Above all, he has vowed to call a constituent assembly to write a new constitution within six months. The current one, he claims, unduly favors the free-market economy.

Castillo" in Peru's capital Lima on July 20 — Photo: EC/GDA/ZUMA

But Castillo also vowed, once his victory was confirmed, to reject "any bid to bring a model of hate. We shan't permit any imported model. This constitution remains in force until the people decide otherwise." Furthermore, he has promised juridical and economic stability for businesses, responding to the conservative Fujimori's calls not to "put up more obstacles' to the economy.

The president-elect promised reforms to healthcare, education and farming, but also a million jobs a year.

Castillo needs to be moderate, something it appears he has begun to understand. Part of that is the need to emit reassuring signals, both to rating agencies and to investors waiting to see what his final postures will be on a range of issues including investments, employment, COVID vaccinations and pandemic management. His earlier declarations in favor of nationalizations and state interventionism alarmed big, foreign investors. And yet, in June, he insisted: "We're not Chavistas or communists. Nobody has come to destabilize this country. We're workers, fighters and entrepreneurs."

Moderation must transcend words, and requires an understanding of what confidence-building entails. It also means working with parliament. The executive and legislative branches cannot continue to be at loggerheads as they have in the past five years, a period in which Peru had five presidents. Parliament will likely closely observe any bid to reform the constitutional principle of presidential incapacity or parliament's powers to sack the president, as it has in past years.

In short, the new president will have to forge pacts and build alliances to implement his promises on health, welfare and jobs, and to build his vision of national dignity and a Peru free of class and ethnic prejudices.

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Peru
Redacción AméricaEconomía

Peru Election: Democracy At Risk, Pick Your Poison For President

Peru's two presidential candidates are far from reassuring in their democratic commitments, but in a country that fought a civil war with Maoists, the communist-style Pedro Castillo may be the bigger threat.

-Analysis-

LIMA — On Sunday, Peru will choose its next president in the second round election runoff. Approximately two-thirds of voters have been forced to decide which of the two candidates constitutes the lesser evil, the arch-conservative Keiko Fujimori, or the schoolteacher with communist sympathies, Pedro Castillo.

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Peru
Gonzalo Torrico*

China's Future Gateway To Latin America Is A Mega-Port In Peru

Despite local opposition, Chinese investors are pumping billions into the Chancay project, a massive port complex north of Lima that will boost trade between China and Latin America as a whole.

-Analysis-

LIMA — China's most important trading terminal with South America is being built 75 kilometers to the north of Lima, the Peruvian capital. Known as the Chancay port complex, it has an initial investment of $1.3 billion and will turn this fishing and farming town into a regional hub that could redefine shipping lines in the entire southern Pacific.

The port can count on the use of 800 hectares of adjacent land where the operating consortium will develop a logistical and industrial complex, with total investment costs expected to rise to $3 billion. Since 2019, the project's main stakeholder is the Chinese state firm Cosco Shipping Ports (60%), with Volcan, a mining subsidiary of Glencore of Switzerland, holding a 40% stake.

Cosco is a partner in 52 port projects worldwide. But in the Americas, Chancay is the first being built with Chinese capital. The complex is expected to be fully functional by 2024, helping consolidate China's influence in South America, and in Peru especially.

Is another commodities "supercycle" on the horizon?

In the last decade, this country has become the regional crux of China's economic and geopolitical interests. So far, Chinese firms have invested more than $30 billion in Peru, a figure exceeded only by money spent in Brazil. The principal sector is mining, which has absorbed more than half all these investments and has proven to be an excellent source for the mineral materials China needs to keep its industrial sector humming.

One of those materials is copper, which Peru produces in great supply. It is the world's second leading exporter of the metal, and exports two thirds of its total production to China, which controls two of Peru's main copper fields: Las Bambas (through MMG) and Toromocho (with Chinalco).

The two countries signed a Free Trade Treaty in 2010, which has reshaped Peru's trade balance. Since 2014, China has been its main trading partner, followed by the United States. In the past five years, Peru sent $58 billion worth of exports to China, compared to $33 billion to the United States. And in the coming years, given China's decisive mining interests, the gap could grow even more assuming, as some observers anticipate, that another commodities "supercycle" is on the horizon.

China is also pursuing a global integration strategy here through its Belt and Road Initiative, which promotes global infrastructures that favor its trade. Amid rivalries with the United States, it has signed agreements with 138 countries in spite of warnings from Washington that states risk becoming becoming over-indebted to China.

For its location, Peru is an important point on this New Silk Route. With its long swatch of Pacific coastline, it lies directly across from Asia, and can also become a link to Brazil and the Atlantic. In April 2019, the two states signed a memorandum of understanding for more investments within the Belt and Road Initiative.

Chancay is undoubtedly of great importance to China's global strategy to win itself markets. Indeed, Cosco Shipping Ports entered the port consortium two weeks after the said memorandum, paying $225 million to Volcan.

Other Belt and Road projects in Peru include the Amazonian Waterway, given to the Chinese state firm Sinohydro, which halted the project before numerous environmental objections, and the Transcontinental Railway, which would link Brazil's Santos port with Bayóvar in northern Peru.

All that glitters ...

Chancay's proximity to the port of Callao, which handles 71% of the country's shipped imports, would both reduce congestion there and develop economic activity outside Lima. Cosco estimates its initial investment would create 1,500 direct and 7,500 indirect jobs, and generate 300 new businesses locally.

In the first phase, the port would ship 6 million tons a year, though in response to local concerns, Volcan says Chancay would not ship out minerals — despite the fact that it's mining subsidiary and that China is the world's main copper buyer. The firm says it will instead redistribute goods arriving from Asia, and make Peru more competitive against Pacific rivals like Colombia and Chile.

Protest in Las Bambas, a mining zone in Peru — Photo: GDA/ZUMA

Nevertheless, people in and around Chancay are concerned by its impact on the local economy, which depends on far more than mining along. There is also farming and fishing, and civil society groups have questioned the project's construction standards and possible, environmental and social impact.

They say the complex will be inside the city of Chancay, and that explosions to reshape the bay have already damaged numerous residential buildings. The project is also expected to affect a local wetland, while dredging of the bay to allow the entry of the biggest container ships will ultimately impact fishing and marine life.

Peru owes a large part of its economic growth to China's enormous demand for natural resources.

The consortium made 89 environmental observations in its last diagnostic report on the project's environmental effects, though checking that document, non-governmental organizations observed omissions and mistaken methodologies to measure its effects. Still, Peru's environmental certification agency, SENACE, approved the project last December, overriding objections by civil society groups.

Peru owes a large part of its economic growth to China's enormous demand for natural resources. And yet, the latter's investments are leaving an indelible mark for many of the communities affected. These include social conflicts in mining zones like Morococha and Las Bambas, or native communities affected by the Amazonian Hydroway.

China is committed to more investments in Peru and its Belt and Road plans will intensify its activities. But the Peruvian state must insist on higher environmental standards, starting with the inclusion of an environmental chapter in current renegotiations of its Free Trade Treaty with China.

The two countries should commit to more than just economic interest. The also need to consider long-term sustainability and look to improve and protect the lives of people, especially with regards to the impact their projects have on local communities and the environment.

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Peru
Farid Kahhat

Making Sense Of The Radical Right's Rise In Latin America

Across the region, hard-line conservatives use residual fears of communism and uproar over changing cultural mores to drum up support.

-Analysis-

LIMA — With the presidential candidacy of Rafael López-Aliaga, Peru joins the list of Latin American countries with an ascendant "radical right," as defined in my book El Eterno Retorno, la derecha radical en el mundo contemporáneo ("The Eternal Return: the Radical Right in The Contemporary World").

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Peru
Alidad Vassigh

Peruvian Farmers Plough Through 3,000-Year-Old Mural

First, the good news: A major archeological find has been discovered in the north of Peru. A ceremonial mound or temple that's thought to date back some 3,200 years, the site also contains a mural with a vaguely visible image of a giant spider and, for reasons yet unknown, a spoon. Cool, right?

This is a story that comes, however, with a caveat, because unfortunately, the precious, pre-Hispanic structure is partially destroyed — and not just due to the passage of time.

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Peru
Farid Kahhat

Biden On Trade: Trump-Like Protectionism, With A Smile

The Democrat Joe Biden may not sound as aggressive as Trump in protectionist policy to support American firms global competitors, but will broadly follow his policies.

-OpEd-

LIMA — I've written before that overall, there were reasons for believing that the new U.S. administration will be better for Latin America than the last one. Still, there is one big exception: international trade. Considering what President Joe Biden has said and done since his campaign began, we have sufficient reasons to believe that his too will be a protectionist administration.

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Peru
Farid Kahhat

What Joe Biden's Arrival Means For Latin America

The new administration isn't likely to prioritize relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. But after the Trump era, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

-Analysis-

LIMA — The United States is facing its biggest recession since the Great Depression. As I write, the coronavirus pandemic is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day. In foreign policy, the priority for the incoming administration of President Joseph Biden will probably be to repair transatlantic ties in order to forge a united western front against communist China. Latin America, on the other hand, is unlikely to be much of a priority.

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Peru
Gonzalo Sarasqueta

In Latin America, The Downward Spiral Of 'Digital Democracy'

In a time of public impatience and online mobilization, the region's governments are feeding frustrations with an outdated leadership approach.

-OpEd-

Latin America is shaking. Peru has had the most recent flareup in a region heaving with discontent. Since last year, the streets of Santiago, La Paz, Quito, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and Mexico City have all gone aflame with indignation. And while each country has its own particular gripes, there are also certain institutional, social and political trends that may help explain these complex, multi-faceted convulsions.

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Peru
Ángel Guillén*

How The Gray Economy Slows Down The Data Revolution

In Latin America, where half of all jobs are off the books, businesses can't tap into the vast and potentially valuable resource of data to usher in digital transformation.

-Op-Ed-

LIMA — Data is one of the driving forces in process of digital transformation that is underway all across the world. But what happens when there are no numbers? Such is the case of the so-called informal economy. And that, in turn, is why off-the-books employment is a major barrier to fully using data as the resource that it is.

This is a particularly big problem in Latin America, where half of all jobs could be described as informal. As a region, therefore, it lags far behind in terms of exploiting data use to add value to products and services sold to the 600 million people living there.

Traditionally, public policies have first sought to formalize work before using data through fiscal, regulatory and credit mechanisms. In spite of improvements, informality remains chronic in this region. Complicating matters even more is the coronavirus pandemic, which may wipe away whatever progress has been made in recent decades.

Is there another way? Consider three examples of how data can reduce the informal economy:

First, in South and Southeast Asian countries people commonly have a card or QR code to pay for transportation services or shopping in grocery or convenience stores. This is itself an incentive for shopkeepers to be in the banking system and to work above board. The information can then be analyzed to find consumption patterns, and improve the value proposition of businesses.

The more people are in the system, the greater its benefits when mass data are used.

Second, new open banking regulations in Europe have favored the rise of thousands of businesses that use the shared data of millions of bank customers to provide more competitive financial services. Crossing more information can provide a better risk profile. Again, a small business has an incentive to enter the banking system.

Third, the coronavirus pandemic has shown our healthcare systems to be highly precarious, with serious problems in providing coverage and primary attention. Electronic medical histories and transfers of operations between hospitals would improve this attention. Data could be used to create algorithms that emit early warnings of people's health risks. The more people are in the system, the greater its benefits when mass data are used.

Let us consider now a small business near a transport hub that gains customers for using QR for payments. Its cash till is used by a fintech company to provide it with cheaper loans or, counsel better nutrition and dieting for the owners when they go for a medical checkup. Seeing these benefits, they may no longer object to "the treasury's share" as Latin Americans gingerly refer to tax.

Perhaps we shouldn't think of formalizing work so much as "datifying" it, as one inevitably entails the other.

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