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Cablegate: Puno Update: Water Issues Add to Instability

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #1707/01 2972256
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 232256Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9489
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 2045
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6083
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7956
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3500
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1248
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 5008
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9597
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 2135
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 2039
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001707

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR SOCI SENV SNAR APECO BO PE
SUBJECT: PUNO UPDATE: WATER ISSUES ADD TO INSTABILITY

REF: A. LIMA 0997
B. LIMA 0460
C. 07 LIMA 22...


id: 175010
date: 10/23/2008 22:56
refid: 08LIMA1707
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 07LIMA2000|07LIMA2236|08LIMA460|08LIMA997
header:
VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #1707/01 2972256
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 232256Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9489
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 2045
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6083
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7956
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3500
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1248
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 5008
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9597
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 2135
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 2039
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY


----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001707

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR SOCI SENV SNAR APECO BO PE
SUBJECT: PUNO UPDATE: WATER ISSUES ADD TO INSTABILITY

REF: A. LIMA 0997
B. LIMA 0460
C. 07 LIMA 2236
D. 07 LIMA 2000

Classified By: Ambassador P. Michael McKinley
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: The southern highland region of Puno, one of
Peru's most isolated and impoverished areas, is notorious for
wide-open smuggling along its extensive border with Bolivia,
sporadic outbreaks of political violence and affinity for
extremist leaders and ideologies (refs). Its proximity to
Bolivia and similar ethnic composition (about sixty percent
of the population is indigenous Aymara or Quechua) make it
susceptible to some of the radical events taking place in
that country. Environmental degradation is an area of
growing concern, especially as it relates to insufficient
amounts of potable water, irrigation and the contamination of
historic Lake Titicaca. Water issues are becoming a source
of social conflict and add to Puno's instability. Emboffs
examined some of these issues while attending the recent
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) youth event in Puno.
End Summary.

--------------------
APEC Youth Camp 2008
--------------------

2. (U) Poloff attended portions of the APEC Youth Camp 2008
event entitled, "Caring for the Sustainable Development of
the Asia-Pacific Region" held in Puno, October 1-5.
Thirty-three APEC youth representatives from sixteen APEC
economies attended a series of lectures and field trips that
focused mainly on climate change and water issues, with a
special emphasis on shared Lake Titicaca. At the end of the
Youth Camp event, delegates signed a declaration urging the
private sector and civilian society to play a more active
role in ensuring compliance with their social obligations.
The recommendations contained in the document also seek to
motivate governments, companies, and private individuals to
do more to protect the environment, particularly vital water
resources. At the national level, the APEC Youth Camp
received positive press coverage.

3. (SBU) One thousand police were deployed to protect the
Youth Camp event according to Col.Castillo, a retired police
official in charge of APEC security. The tight security and
costs associated with the gathering caused some mild
grumbling among local residents we spoke with, although
evidence of outright opposition to the event were few. For
example, on October 2, a single "reservista" (an Antauro
Humala follower dressed in military garb) attempted to rally
a crowd in the main downtown square of Puno City. As he
marched around with a bullhorn, a supporter followed him
carrying the checkered indigenous flag ("wipala"). The
reservista trumpeted, "While the mining town of La Rinconada,
with 30,000 people, is waiting to build its first police
station, (President) Garcia sends a thousand policemen to
protect 33 foreign kids at a fancy hotel."

4. (C) At the conference, poloff spoke with Luis Quesada,
the MFA's Director General for Asia-Pacific Affairs, who said
Puno was chosen as the venue for the APEC event in part to
highlight Lake Titicaca's unique features and to call
attention to the threats to its fragile ecosystem. He
confided that Peru hoped that publicity surrounding Youth
Camp might help attract international donor support for
projects in the area. Quesada noted that while Peru's
establishment of a Ministry of Environment was a recent
development, the government of Peru is increasingly cognizant
about the links between environmental issues, economic
prosperity and social stability. He added that the
government was deeply concerned about the effects of global
warming and the melting of glaciers that fed water to the
city of Lima.

Puno's Mayor
------------

5. (C) For a hands-on perspective of how water issues are
impacting the city of Puno (same name as the region), poloff
called on its mayor, Luis Buitron Castillo on October 2.
Buitron (National Restoration Party - PRN) said that for most
people in the region, deep poverty and harsh climate meant
that the struggle for survival took precedence over anything
else. As a result, education was not a priority. The
illiteracy rate for the region is 22 percent, and is
differentiated by area and gender. Health problems are also
related to the endemic poverty and to attendant problems such
as poor nutrition, lack of clean water and sanitation, damage
to the fragile ecosystem, and the absence of credit and
investment to help people improve their livelihoods. All
these factors contributed to Puno's underlying social unrest,
he said.

6. (C) The mayor said that his city's population of 230,000
represented the largest human settlement on the lake's shore,
including the Bolivian side. Though its citizens have greater
access to services than most other parts of the region, where
on average only about one in five has access to potable water
or a proper sewage system, the Puno municipality is blamed
for the majority of the pollution in the lake. (Note: The
October 3 edition of the local daily "Los Andes" carried an
article stating that the municipality was being charged with
"environmental crimes" for polluting Puno bay. End Note.)
Buitron said the causes of the city's pollution are twofold:
First, there are high amounts of untreated city sewage and
urban runoff (during heavy rain) that are dumped directly
into the bay. Secondly, the bay is mostly enclosed and
shallow, which inhibits water exchange. Buitron said that the
city is also critically short on potable drinking water and
needs funding to pipe water from mountain sources many
kilometers away. He expressed hope that the November APEC
meetings in Lima would result in funding for needed water
supply and treatment projects.

Regional President
------------------

7. (C) On October 3, poloff met with the enigmatic Regional
President of Puno, Pablo Hernan Fuentes Guzman of the "Avanza
Pais" party. Fuentes began the interview (he had an
assistant film it) in a darkened room with two questions:
whether or not poloff was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and
what was going to happen to the United States after its
second Great Depression? After some rambling about Quechua
nationalism, Fuentes ducked several questions such as his
controversial call for Puno to become a more autonomous
federal state. He acknowledged that Puno was region prone to
violent unrest and recalled the April 2004 lynching of the
mayor and his assistant in the nearby town of Ilave. He
blamed most of the region's problems on central government
and NGO neglect, however, and for their failure to provide
the funds necessary to repair crumbling infrastructure,
including water for drinking and irrigation. With respect to
pollution of Lake Titicaca, he blamed mayor Buitron and gold
mining activities for most of its contamination. Fuentes
concluded the meeting by saying that he would welcome any
U.S. development assistance to Puno.

Tourists
--------

8. (C) On October 3, Poloff spoke with a group of American
and foreign tourists who had returned from a one-day boat
excursion on Lake Titicaca. They complained that they were
each required to pay a $100 "visa fee" for visiting the Isla
del Sol, even though the trip into Bolivian territory was for
only for a few hours. One tourist said he was told by an
island resident that, "If any thing happens to Evo (President
Morales), you Americans will be in big trouble." The same
tourist, who claimed to have visited Lake Titicaca several
times previously, said that the north of the lake was
becoming something of a "no-man's land", unfriendly to
tourists. He said that smuggling seemed much in evidence
throughout the area, and while passing through the town of
Moho, he was told that no hotel accommodations were available
for tourists, "because they are all out of towels."

Comment
-------

9. (C) Water problems are adding to Puno's unstable mix of
grinding poverty, inept local government, narcotics smuggling
and racial animosities. Such conditions are ripe for
attracting radical actors should they decide to expolit the
situation for their own political purposes. There is some
evidence that this may already be happening. For example, on
October 20, Puno protesters began to "indefinitely" block the
major highway linking the Bolivian town of Desaguadero with
the Peruvian regions of Moquegua and Tacna, over rumors that
recent government dectrees will tax farmers on irrigation
water. Such road blockages are fairly common in Puno and
other indigenous regions, and often amount to naught. But it
is worth noting that the Ombudsman's office was recently
quoted as saying that,"political interests are behind the
protests." The police also reported having spotted Bolivian
and Ecuadorian activists among the indigenous protesters.
MCKINLEY

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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