Peru Wikileaks– The US Ambassador meets with Ollanta Humalla


While the buzz about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange has died down considerably, it’s still worthwhile to note that the site is still up and running and full of information.  I perused the US Embassy Lima section, and saw nothing of great interest until this one popped up:

Here’s the summary of the cable (written by the Ambassador himself) followed by notes from me.  You can read the full cable here:


Summary: I met one-on-one with Nationalist Party 
leader Ollanta Humala April 16 at his request. Across two-and-a-half hours of discussion, Humala revealed perhaps more than he intended of his electoral strategy for regional and congressional elections in 2010 and for presidential elections in 2011. He is clearly working closely with some
of the most radical groups in Peru, even as he continues to project a moderate nationalist line on economic, international, and political issues. Ollanta has also successfully raised his media profile in recent weeks, in part by joining a growing national consensus on what should be done about the VRAE region, where Sendero and drug traffickers hold sway. I was struck by a growing self-confidence, a view echoed by at least one other veteran observer of the political scene. I was also left with the impression that Ollanta remains ambivalent about fully abandoning radical alternatives. He is open to suggestions
on international travel and, for at least the third time in as many discussions over the past ten months, indicated his interest in visiting the US. We should consider our options on supporting his travel should he formally make a request.

+ Refers to Humalla’s wife, Nadine Herrera, ‘repudtedly the radical political brains behind Humala’;

+ The Ambassador and Humalla spoke about military anti-narco actions inside of Peru.They acknowledged the high level of corruption in drug zones, including politicians and the police. Also discussed was the limited effect of policies to stem off the growing of coca leaves such as paying farmers to grow something other than coca leaves.  Ollanta proposed just buying the crop outright to prevent it’s entry to the market (at a cost of $200 million). The Ambassador suggested Humalla visit Vienna to learn about other anti drug trafficking efforts;

+ After his lose in the 2006 elections, Ollanta studied demographics and polling to figure out HOW he lost and where he could strengthen his candidacy. He sited one or two candidates planted in the Presidential elections to take votes away from himself;

+ “Humalla said that just because he saw himself in the leftist international bloc did not mean he agreed with everything his regional allies said or did”;

+His nationalist party in Congress was weak at the start because of it’s mix between professionals and campesinos, but poco a poco there’s more informal coordination.

+ Humalla meets with the leftist political leaders in Peru for consensus building but acknowledged that he was ‘in charge’ as the other leaders had no political and leadership legitimacy

+Claims he is moderate on nationalist economic and political  issues

+Ollanta requested information on how to get in touch with the US Democratic Party in order to develop transparent relations with the United States.



So you’re coming to Peru – clothes and what to bring


I can’t remember if I actually wrote at one point about packing and such for PCTs coming to Peru, but might as well do it again (assuming I’m awesome and completed the task in the first place).

The skinny: packing for Peru is easy and hard. Easy in the fact that Peru has a lot of stuff available (well, stuff that you need) for purchasing and the cold hard truth is that no Peruvian I met has an REI membership but somehow manages to get by day-by-day. The hard part is that in Peru is: you don’t know whether you’ll be in hot or cold climate and that some sizes are hard to get. For the climate thing, bring stuff you can layer (i.e. long sleeve shirts, sweaters, flannel shirt, fleece jacket) so you can transition from hot to cold in style. I would advise bringing a big ass jacket – if you need it (aka if other people wear it), you can buy it closer to your site (full disclosure, I live in the coast).

Speaking for men (the often forgotten gender), pants are generally made for short people around here. So getting something to fit my 6’2” 33/34 frame is tough. In fact, I’ve never bought pants in Peru. Shorts, yea. Pants, nope. They never really fit right. Shoes are the same issue. If your foot size is around 44 or less (look up the converstions yourself), you should be ok. My 46s just cant seem to squeeze into too many of the black market shoes available here. Even department stores have a limited supply of my clown shoes.

So what to do?

For clothes - I actually recommend around 3-4 pairs of hiking pants (think North Face, ex-Officio, Columbia) that are tough, durable and that preferably look like regular pants rather than something off the front cover of the North Face catalog. While you won’t be battling the wilderness every day, your pants will face the rock and brush of clothes washing and these brands usually hold their own. Even the campesinos wear buttondowns and trouser pants, so I had to leave some of my choice t-shirts at home. Simple short sleeve button downs or plain t-shirts can work. Oh, you’ll be line drying your undies, so no white underwear unless you want to show off your skid marks.

Shoes – I wear my boots like a mofo. Everywhere I go is flat, but since they’re closed toe and pretty durable it works. Sandals are a no-no if you’re in ‘work’ mode. I have a pair of sneakers, but they get beat up here in the desert so I only wear them sparingly. But when I go home for a visit, I will be bringing back a few extra pairs. Trail shoes are also a popular choice.

Backpack: I have a regular American jansport backpack that I use for everyday use and weekend travel, and a hiking backpack for extended trips. For coming to Peru – I brought my hiking backpack (50L – 65L is recommended), my Jansport backpack, and a large army surplus duffle bag – which I haven’t used since I got here.

Although, many volunteersvolunteers also sport the ubiquitous Peruvian market bag to carry their accessories. Provided my base camp is a hostel room, these bags (teamed up with a Jansport) hold a ton of stuff, and don’t stick out as much as a big hiking pack might. Available at any market place in Peru, these stylish bags are available in a wide variety of checkered colors (red/green/blue) as well as with Disney characters.

Stuff and Things 2011-04-06 001

Beyond clothes and shoes, you really don’t need too many accessories. Laptop (definitely), some kind of MP3 player, maybe battery powered speakers, small mag light, rechargeable batteries, USB drives (a big one and one or two small ones), some books to read and trade around, and bring a few momentos from home. I have a sleeping bag and pad that gets used once in a while, but I’m not a big camper.

Weird things I brought for mementos: Homer Simpson bobble head (been following me since college), Terrible Towel (I’m a proud Pittsburgher), a few t-shirts that remind me of home (including a Sydney Crosby shirt and Doink the Clown), and a bunch of photos. I have a wall covered with photos from home, and (soon enough) of stuff from Peru. It brightens up the room, seeing the drunken smiles and being reminded of drunken memories.

I can’t really think of stuff that I brought but don’t use…largely because it’s probably stuffed in the back of my closet and will be pulled out come mid-December (COS).

You’re going to overpack. Just don’t do it too much.

Peru: Laws about Elections


Well, we’re on the eve of the Presidential elections here in Peru.  It’s slightly unwavering to see which candidate may win and how it will affect Peru, especially so as I’ve been here for some time now (but not tooooo much).  Interesting to note, though, a few of the rules and regulations that surround presidential elections;

+ Starting a week before the elections, public opinion polls are prohibited from being released – believing (rightfully so) that the small sample polls will affect a person’s vote rather than platforms and issues.  They can start exit polls around 4pm election day.

+ Elections are on a Sunday.  If you are between 18 – 65 years old, you must vote or pay a fine of S/.70 ($25).  If you’re older than 65, than voting is optional. Oddly, my straw poll shows that most people older than 65 don’t intend on voting or see the need to even though some candidates offer better pensions than others

+Starting the Friday before elections, no more campaign commercials or publicity.

+ No public demonstrations or rallies of political nature starting on Friday

+ No sale or consumption of alcohol from Friday until noon on Monday with hefty fines for rule breakers (especially businesses selling the booze).   It’s heavily forced in the capital cities, and results may vary in rural zones.  People drank openly in the streets, just like any Sunday, during the October elections when the same law was in place

+ No public shows (concerts, movies, circus) on Election Day

+ No religious services are allowed between 8:00am – 4:00pm on Election Day, which is interesting considering Peru is heavily Catholic/Christian. Just shows how serious and important the government views national elections

+ Can’t carry around guns Saturday – Sunday


There’s a few others, but these are the bigger ones.  Growing up with the two-party system, I may question the validity or effectiveness of the true multi-party system (though as of writing, we might be under a government freeze).  But Peru takes elections and the democratic ideal seriously.  Unlike our low-voter turnout Tuesday elections.

I once read that traditionally elections were held on Tuesday because back when America was super-religious, everyone wanted to be at church on Sunday and it was forbidden to travel on the Sabath anyways.  So Monday was supposed to be a travel day for people who needed to mobilize to the voting station, and thus elections were held on Tuesday. 

Maybe it’s time for Saturday elections –  better turn out, and allows for more full fledged celebrations….

And so it goes


March 31st, 2011 is the last day for one of our health post doctors.  He hasn’t been paid by MINSA (the National Institute of Health here in Peru) for over five months, so he’s leaving.  He doesn’t want to, but after five months of not getting paid, I’d be pretty pissed too.

Our town health post had two doctors which allowed coverage for attention between 9-4pm Mon-Sat plus allow to attend trainings, meetings, etc.  With Dr. Rony gone, things will start to slow down even more around here as Dr. Victor also has administrative duties + can only see x amount of patients per day, and can only work so many hours a week.  And while the fully (health) insured citizens of our town won’t be affected –they have their own clinic in town – the poor who are covered by the gov’t insurance only will have to wait longer to see a doctor.

And so it goes.