Machu Picchu train company fined under monopoly law

The Trans-Andean Railway Company, responsible for rail transport to Machu Picchu, has been fined over $185,000 for operating an illegal monopoly. The company has also been ordered to cease its practice of refusing to sublet trains and other equipment that it rents from the state.

According to its contract, it is obliged to rent these units to other companies that wish to operate rail service along the route. The only rental contracts that it has accepted in the past were to its own subsidiary Peru Rail, while it rejected applications by any company that was not linked to it.

This landmark ruling, the first of its kind in Peru, is hoped to bring in new completion for transport along the route, and reduce prices for tourists travelling between Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Huanuco gunfight leaves three police wounded, three missing

A gunfight between Peruvian National Police officers and cattle rustlers in the Huánuco region left three officers injured and three more missing yesterday morning.

The six policemen were dispatched to investigate reports of livestock theft in the community of Palca in the Lauricocha province, where locals had reported a series of thefts.

They were ambushed at around 5am by a gang of criminals armed with shotguns and other firearms, as reported by the wounded officers.

Three officers have been transferred to Huánuco city hospital suffering from gunshot wounds, while the remaining three remain unaccounted for and are officially listed as “disappeared”.

The regional police force has responded by sending in further operatives, backed up by police aircraft in an attempt to locate the missing officers and arrest their attackers.

Grenade and cannabis plantation found in Lima avenue

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A fragmentation grenade and more than 200 cannabis plants have been found in an avenue in Lima’s La Victoria region.

Municipal gardeners came across the grenade at about 10am, while tending the plants in the central reservation of San Eugenio Avenue. They immediately alerted police, who called specialist officers from the EDEX “bomb squad” division to render the weapon safe and remove it.

A few meters away, the gardeners then came across a large number of cannabis plants, growing hidden amongst the trees between the carriageways of the avenue and opposite the San Norberto high school. A total of over 200 plants were found and destroyed.

Police sources state that an investigation is underway to find those responsible.

La Victoria is a central district of Lima, and the terminal for many buses to and from the capital. However, many parts of the large district are generally poorly policed and unsafe for foreigners.

“Robocops” to hit the streets of Peru

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At yesterday’s police operation to retake the Santa Anita market in Lima, a number of officers were seen wearing suits of black plastic armor, much to the surprise of commentators and protesters.

Dubbed “robocops” by the press, these are members of the 34th Command or Special Services Unit, and after the new uniform’s successful trial it will be deployed to some 2,000 more officers around the country.

According to police sources, the plastic armor provides protections against sticks, stones and other blunt instruments, to the extent that officers sometimes are unaware of impacts.

As Lima police General Octavio Salazar puts it, “you can kick a policeman or throw a stone at him, with this new equipment he simply will not feel it.”

Salazar remarked that this will allow police to respond peacefully to situations that in the past would have called for the use of force to protect officers.

Peru’s heritage at risk from organized crime

Police officials reported three thefts of religious and cultural heritage yesterday. In Huancayo an ancient bronze church bell was removed from its belfry over night, probably for sale as scrap metal, in the fourth church theft reported in the Mantaro Valley so far this year.

The Mantaro is a popular destination for Peruvian tourists, as the many small communities that exist in this unusually fertile mountain valley present an example of colonial architecture and traditional Andean culture within just a few hours of Lima.

The newly reinstated passenger service on the Lima-Huancayo train route passes through the region.

In the same night, the San Francisco church in Cajamarca was robbed of a number of priceless silver artifacts, after thieves broke in using a crowbar; and, also in Cajamarca, police yesterday recovered a number of ancient mummies, ceramics, textiles and other archeological finds. The criminals dropped the items on a road as they made their escape.

Cajamarca, as the city where conquistador Francisco Pizarro murdered Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, is a key destination for tourists in Peru.

Israeli tourist arrested at Lima airport with 5.2 kilos of cocaine

A 27-year-old Israeli citizen identified as Larissa Blick has been arrested at Lima airport as she boarded a flight to
Madrid. She was found to have 5.2 kilos of pure cocaine concealed in her luggage. She admitted that “some friends” had offered her US$3000 to take the suitcase to
Madrid.
 

This comes just days after German Marko Vehit was arrested at the same airport, trying to take 15.9kg of cocaine to the same destination in exchange for $8000.  

Police have not ruled out the existence of a gang of smugglers taking advantage of tourists, and advise foreigners to report any offers directly to them.

Coca growers may turn away from cocaine and towards biofuel

Peruvian national anti-drugs group Devida has stated that crops such as sugar cane and oil palm, used for making ecologically safe biofuel, may prove an alternative crop to replace coca in the country’s mountains. Although coca can be grown legally in Peru, over 90% of the annual crop is siphoned off for the illegal production of cocaine and related drugs.

Devida Chief Rómulo Pizarro stated today that his group is studying the possibility and profitability of turning over land currently used for coca for growing biofuel crops, providing growers with a viable and legal alternative.

He added that this would be an interesting alternative given that the biofuel industry is growing fast and seems to have a great future ahead of it, so the market will probably be strong in the near future – something missing from many other alternative crop plans.

“Our idea is to support this possibility because it could be an excellent alternative to coca, providing a sustainable crop and, above all, a guaranteed market.”

He said that for this project to succeed, it needs not only private investment but a joint venture including several government bodies, such as national oil company Petroperu, the Ministry of Agriculture, and local and regional governments.