The Miami Herald
Sat, May. 08, 2004
Social unrest likely, Peru's police warn

A police report warned of a possible explosion of social unrest as rival groups of Peru's Aymara Indians try to topple several provincial mayors.

Associated Press

LIMA - A classified police report warns that simmering social unrest near Lake Titicaca could explode as rival groups of Aymara Indians try to wrestle power from provincial mayors.

The report comes as 300 riot police in the region are ''on a state of alert'' to protect bridges, gas stations and public offices, a police official in the regional capital of Puno told The Associated Press by telephone.

Tuesday's police document, reported Friday in the newspaper El Comercio, says constituents have accused mayors in seven towns and villages of corruption.

Among the hottest spots is Ilave, 565 miles southeast of Lima, where a mob lynched Mayor Cirilo Robles, an Aymara, late last month after three weeks of protests drew thousands of Indians from outlying villages demanding his resignation.


Police later arrested Deputy Mayor Alberto Sandoval, also an Aymara, as well as three municipal officials and three townspeople on suspicion of inciting the lynch mob. The police report said about 10,000 Aymaras have split into two groups -- supporters of the murdered mayor in the town itself and followers of Sandoval from surrounding villages.

The police document warned that the Aymara community is known for ''rebelling against authority and laws and its inclination toward so-called vigilante justice,'' El Comercio said.

Police said Sandoval's supporters have been circulating a flier calling for a three-day protest beginning Monday to block bridges and highways and occupy public offices in Ilave. His supporters are demanding that he be freed.

Across Lake Titicaca in the village of Tilali, an ousted mayor has vowed to return, rejecting an accord between a central government negotiator last week and hundreds of protesters who seized the municipality demanding his resignation for alleged corruption, El Comercio reported.

About 300 riot police were on alert, the police official told AP from Puno, 530 miles southeast of Lima. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, struggling President Alejandro Toledo, whose approval rating is down to 8 percent in recent polls, was expected to swear in a replacement for Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi.


Rospigliosi, who as minister oversaw police forces, resigned Thursday after being forced to do so by a congressional vote of censure. Lawmakers argued he waited too long to send police into Ilave to restore order.

Some 200 police eventually regained control of Ilave, but only after the mayor's lynching. In his defense, Rospigliosi said the protest appeared to be nearing a political solution and that sending in riot police would have provoked unnecessary bloodshed.

The conflicts appear to be local power grabs between Aymara factions for control of municipal funds in a region rife with contraband.

In the case of Ilave, Robles and Sandoval -- both Aymaras and former university professors in Puno -- were political enemies belonging to rival communist factions.

Although the Aymara groups are caught up in local power struggles, they share a centuries-old contempt for the government in Lima.