wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
05LIMA976 2005-03-01 19:04:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Lima
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable

1. (SBU) Ambassador visited Ayacucho February 17-19, as part
of a series of trips aimed at raising public awareness
throughout Peru regarding potential benefits of a free trade
agreement with the U.S. In the course of contacts with
public officials and opinion leaders in Ayacucho, this trip
also proved valuable as an opportunity to observe the way in
which this Region is managing to recover from the violence
resulting from Sendero Luminoso's campaign of internal
warfare during the 80s and 90s.

2. (SBU) The effects of the violent years in Ayacucho are
still evident. Archbishop Luis Sebastiani told Ambassador
that the populace was still "emotionally ill," and that the
chief mission of the Catholic Church in the Region is to
heal these enduring wounds, and bring about reconciliation.
Community leaders recognize the importance of the report of
Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a step in the
right direction, but there is still a sense that this is a
task only half done - the TRC report documented the impact
of the SL-led rebellion and the resulting counterinsurgency,
but little has been done in terms of individual or communal
reparations, and Peruvian state presence remains weak.
Local commanders of the Army and the Peruvian National
police also felt that the TRC had been unduly influenced by
left-wing input, and had excessively blamed the security
forces for human rights abuses that occurred in the process
of returning stability to the area. However, the Army
commander acknowledged that the Armed Forces have little
luck recruiting soldiers from Ayacucho because of widespread
bitterness towards the military.

3. (SBU) After hearing comments at a lunch Ambassador hosted
on 2/16 for Congresswoman Celina Palomino, local government
officials, and business representatives, we were left with
the impression that there was no consensus among the
community's leaders about how to extract Ayacucho from its
marginalized situation; in fact, this was the first time
many of these individuals had sat down together to exchange
ideas about a common development strategy. The Regional
Presidency focused mainly on building roads and other
infrastructure outside of Ayacucho City; the Mayor's Office
wanted to put Ayacucho back into the tourism circuit that it
was a part of prior to the violent years, but was frustrated
by the lack of air carrier service; private sector
representatives seemed on the whole demoralized by the
stagnant economy. One ray of hope was the campaign being
organized by the Competitiveness Center and the Peace
Commissioner to change the public image of Ayacucho from an
impression of lingering disorder to one of a welcoming
destination for tourism and investment. Congresswoman
Palomino pledged to lend her support to the initiative, and
the Embassy will seek to find ways to contribute as well.

4. (SBU) The Q and A session after the Ambassador's 2/16
talk on the FTA at the Peruvian Chamber of Commerce workshop
gave an indication of the persistence of some of the
philosophical bias that allowed SL to flourish in Ayacucho
for so many years. Many of the questions addressed to the
Ambassador after his presentation displayed a lack of
understanding of entrepreneurship and a free market economy,
and questioned USG motives in the FTA and our counter-
narcotics program. The questions provided the Ambassador
with an opportunity to respond and made the session
valuable. The Ambassador directly dispelled as unfounded
the rumors circulated by USG opponents that we are spraying
Peruvian coca and thereby sickening innocent peasants, or
that we have military bases in Peru's jungle region.

5. (SBU) The balance of our impressions is that Ayacucho
suffers from the equivalent of metal depression. A
collective sense of "oh well, what can we do" hangs over the
province and threatens to hold one of Peru's most backward
areas in place while adjacent coastal areas boom. That is
not to say there are no harbingers of hope. Though per
capita income is less than half of Peru's average, and many
farm families own properties of only one or two hectares,
the Ambassador visited USAID projects that have achieved
success in promoting cash generation through the
commercialization of sweet pepper, avocado, and honey. The
Competitiveness Center in Ayacucho has identified 15
products that are already being exported from the region.
Bringing economic opportunity to the Region on a wide scale
will require a continuous focus by the GOP and local
officials to maintain and improve marketing infrastructure.
This point was made by the participants of the FTA meeting,
who made it clear that they wanted improved infrastructure,
not handouts. Security issues will continue to be an
important factor in order to bring about assurances of
stability. Local officials do not expect a resurgence of
Sendero, but there is still a sense that Ayacucho is a
community on edge: large-scale protests are common, and the
Police commander pointed to the presence of about 200
members of the ultra-nationalist Humala movement as a
potentially destabilizing factor.