Guerillas pose threat to Peru’s gas pipelines
PERU has had a good year. It ended 2012 with an economic growth rate of seven per cent. And recent figures show that the proportion of the population now officially classed as living in poverty has been halved in the last decade.
Now some 27 per cent of the population is officially classed as living in poverty compared with 54 per cent.
The projection for 2013 also looks good, with figures predicting a growth rate of six per cent, on the assumption that the global crisis continues.
But there are some issues which could upset the growth forecast. In the long term, these relate to public education and the need for improved infrastructure.
But in the short term it is the continued presence of the Shining Path rebel group which could upset Peru's prosperity.
A few months ago Shining Path expanded its military operation into the province of La Convencion in Cusco. The country’s main gas field at Camisea lies in the same province.
A gas pipeline from the area runs to the coast. The gas is partly for export, but it also provides 38 per cent of Peru's energy.
Members of Shining Path abducted a group of 36 employees from Transportadora de Gas del Peru (TGP), the company in charge of the pipeline, in April 2012.
In October, they destroyed three of TGP's helicopters which were used for pipeline maintenance. The company has told the government in Lima that it cannot carry out maintenance because of threats from the armed group operating in the area.
An interruption of gas supply could, at best, take several days to repair, leading to gas shortages.
One of the main casualties would be large-scale mining operations which generate almost half of Peru's foreign currency.
About 150km of the gas pipeline is in an area controlled by Shining Path. It is considered unlikely that the group would sabotage the pipeline because of its links to drug traffickers, which want ‘calm and peace’ for their activities.
But while the group has not yet sabotaged the pipeline, concern over security has paralysed the construction of a loop and a compressor plant, which would have increased capacity for transporting gas to the coast.
There are no short-term solutions to the problem. The capacity of the armed forces to defeat this small armed group is limited.
Some observers believe it will be a matter of luck whether and to what extent the gas supply can be maintained.