Lockdown

On Sunday, October 21st, the whole of Peru is under house arrest. Nobody may leave their home; no business may open; even the homeless will be rounded up and confined to sports stadiums. Police and military will patrol the streets to enforce the “immobility order”.

The reason for this unprecedented measure is the National Census, run by the governmental statistics institute INEI. In one day, they plan to gather information on all of Peru’s estimated 27 million inhabitants.

Tourists and business travelers will not be exempt from the measure, which will be in force from 8am to 6pm, and the Ministry of the Interior has recently reversed a previous decision and stated that anyone found out of their home will be fined.

The only exemptions are for businesses considered of absolute priority, such as hospitals and power stations. No supermarkets or stores may be open during the hours of curfew, and all transport will be suspended.

In previous declarations, INEI stated that international and internal air transport will proceed, and that taxis will be permitted to operate to and from airports – but not for other routes. However, a communiqué issued today calls that into question, stating that “aircraft… may not transit… national territory”.

Foreigners present an unusual situation, and INEI have yet to respond to The Lima Bean’s inquiries regarding how the rules apply to them. We advise that all tourists and business travelers ask their hotels what arrangements will be made.

Given that all stores and restaurants will be closed, INEI have advised that anyone who will be in Peru on the 21st of October stock up on food and other necessities a few days in advance, to prevent shortages due to sudden buying.

In addition, the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be outlawed for 24 hours, starting at 6pm on Saturday October 20th.

UPDATE

The directors of INEI have informed The Lima Bean that no exceptions will be made for foreigners, be they residents, tourists or business travelers. All persons must remain wherever they spent the night of October 20th, until 6pm on October 21st. They may leave and pass freely on the streets on the early morning of the 21st, but must then return to their hotel, where they will be allowed to leave only in case of emergency such as fire, or if they have a confirmed outbound ticket on an international flight. There will be zero tolerance for anyone found outside without permission.

Persons staying at hotels classed with three or more stars will be assessed by hotel staff, while those staying at other establishments or in private homes will be assessed in the normal manner.

In rural areas, the census will take place from October 21st to November 4th.

Hope for poverty reduction in Peru

Peru’s Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo yesterday announced that half a million Peruvians have “escaped from the shadow of poverty” thanks to the country’s sustained economic development.

He stated that the country’s overall level of poverty has dropped from 48% to 44% of the population, while recognizing that some regions are harder hit – for instance, 88% of people in Huancavelica region live below the poverty line.

To help address this problem, which is shared by neighboring Andean regions such as Ayacucho, he announced a new law that relaunches Agrobank, a state-run entity that offers credit to small-scale farmers to help them develop their income.

Peru defines poverty as the economic inability to maintain an adequate food intake.

Machu Picchu entrance fee may rise to $100

machu_picchu.jpg 

Peruvian tourism minister Mercedes Araoz today discussed the measures that may be put into place to preserve Machu Picchu, including further entry controls and the construction of a cable car system, in association with UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization.

“We have to administer the entry system and the administration of tours, as well as the opening hours,” she said, at a ceremony to mark the site’s election as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.

She added that her ministry is working alongside the private sector on several projects, such as the installation of viewpoint at strategic locations and new tour routes around the site.

She ruled out any increase to the entry price for the site, which currently stands at around US$38 for foreigners and $17 for Peruvians, saying “there is no reason to increase the cost of visiting Machu Picchu, and no technical study that suggests any price increase”.

On the other hand, Cusco’s regional president Hugo Gonzalez has suggested a substantial increase to the entry price, which is already significantly greater than that of any of the other sites elected as ‘wonders’. “Foreigners are already spending at least $1000 on their flights and accommodation, so they can afford to pay more for the main reason they came here.”

Gonzalez suggests free entry to residents of the Cusco region, a reduction to $10 for other Peruvians, and an entry price of $80-100 for foreign tourists. Including other fees and standard transport to the site, this would bring the total cost of visiting Machu Picchu from Cusco to around $200.

Juan Diego Flores receives Peru’s highest honor

000034081t.jpg 

Today Peru’s President Alan Garcia awarded the order of the Sun of Peru at the level of the Grand Cross, the nation’s highest honor, to Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flores.

The ceremony took place in the Gilded Room of the Palace of Government, where the president recognized Flores for his outstanding contributions to Peru’s worldwide image. The tenor is thought of as among the world’s greatest classical singers, vaunted by many as the successor to Luciano Pavarotti.

The order of the Grand Cross of the Sun of Peru is the nation’s highest honor.

Apolo, Bolivia, calls on Peru to invade

Locals of an ecological reserve in Bolivia have held protests demanding that they be annexed by Peru. Waving Peruvian flags, as many as 4,000 people filled the local square and called on the mayor to extend an invitation to Peru to occupy the region.

The small town of Apolo, located just 6 hours’ walk from the Peruvian border, marks the entrance to the Madidi National Park, an Amazon wildlife refuge that includes around 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of pristine rainforest.

Officials opposing the protest claimed that the people were angered that the protected nature of the area prevents them from being legally allowed to log the forest or take advantage of oil reserves thought to exist in the region.

Speaking from La Paz 200km away, Bolivian President Evo Morales referred to the protesters as “drug traffickers and wood smugglers”.

President Garcia: economy as solid as a rock

alanii.jpg

President Alan Garcia stated today that he expect the Peruvian economy to grow by 7-8% this year, due to an increase in local consumption and foreign investment, rather than due to the increases in world metal prices that have bolstered the economy in the first quarter but which are due largely to external factors.

Calling the economy “real, material and productive”, he said that Peru’s projected economic growth for 2007 is the highest in Latin America.

He added that the government’s reduction in customs tariffs at the beginning of the year has brought a heavy influx of machinery and capital goods, with first quarter import figures up 40% on 2006.

He referred to this growth as a sign of active investment and increased production capacity, which he expects to be reflected in generation of employment.

The economic growth has occurred despite low inflation rates of around 1%, so the President described the economy as “not heating up”.

He also cautioned against taking the last weeks’ drops in the Lima Stock Exchange (BVL) as indicative of a long-term downturn – a prediction that seems to have come true already with today’s very solid gains on the trading floor.

72-hour strike coming up in Iquitos

Loreto region, with its capital in the jungle city of Iquitos, plans to hold a 72-hour general strike on the 4th-6th of June as a protest against new government tax projects. This is expected to impact flights, transport, and travel to the region.