Bulletin From The Borderlands
15 December 2022
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In This Issue:
The Americas : Covered in this issue by Analyze Educate
Protests and civil strife have exploded across South America. The President of Peru staged a coup, was ousted by the Peruvian military, and his supporters are now fighting Peruvian security forces. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro ‘s supporters continue to riot against the results of the Brazilian election. In the U.S, attacks on the North Carolina power grid have revealed major security risks in the nation’s power infrastructure.
Europe : Covered in this issue by Croatoan Report
The Battle for Bakhmut continues. The focus of Russian forces in Ukraine seems to be focused directly onto taking the city before the end of the year. Across the Balkans, pro Russian protests have broken out in support of Slavic ethno-nationalism and the Putin regime.
East Asia and Oceania: Covered in this issue by Sino Talk, Alcon S2, and the Good Political Team
Asia is big this issue. We are rejoined by ALCON S2 and our newest team member, Sino Talk. Asia continues to remain the next big world stage. As the world transitions from the Middle East to the Far East, China no longer is able to quietly influence the region. Every move Xi Jinping makes is heavily watched by the world and scrutinized by his neighbors. Australian lawmakers have called into question their ability to secure the South China Sea and Japan considers their offensive capabilities. The polarized situation is Korea is cooling from the recent tensions but the war between the East and the West is on full display between the sister nations. India also begins to dawn as they and China test each other for weaknesses along their contested border. Ultimately, just another day in the office.
Central Asia and the Mid East: Covered in this issue by S2 Forward
Saudi Arabia and China have had leader level talks to secure Saudi
Africa : Covered in this issue by Croatoan Report
In response to Russian and Chinese interest in the continent, global attention has begun to swing back towards Africa. US diplomatic missions arrived in Africa this month to shore up U.S. commitment to aid and infrastructural investment programs. Wagner Group, the Russian government’s flagship mercenary company, continues is broad impact across Africa.
The Big Points:
The Highlight: The Battle Of Helms Deep
Bakhmut is rapidly turning into one of the engagements that will be considered a turning point of the Second Russo Ukrainian War. Russian forces are being directed towards the fight over the city, including the previously pampered Wagner Group troops. Wagner Group forces, better equipped than Russian regulars, have previously been spared from grinding attritional engagements, but are now being directed into front line service as Russia attempts to seize the city.
The Long Term Concern: Shifting Sands
China has doubled down on its commitments abroad. Meetings this month with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman indicate that the Chinese government intends to invest heavily into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in part to secure energy supplies for itself, and also to pull a traditional American partner into its sphere of influence.
In Africa, Russian mercenary forces have become common place tools used across West and Central Africa to prop up governments, fight insurgencies, and to police Islamic terror groups. As the civilian collateral damage grows, American and European offers of infrastructural and security support have slowly begun to become more and more attractive.
In the Americas, the collapse of two pro Russian governments indicates a shift in the dynamics of South America. The ouster of Bolsonaro in Brazil, and the collapse of the Peruvian government after a failed coup by its president will threaten the stability of other traditionally socialist or anti American states, like Nicaragua and Venezuela.
As it has been for the past several months, global instability is still our forecast for the next year.
Chinese and Indian troops clash violently in Ladahk province (India) over the boundaries of the Bramaputra river. Indian soldiers drove off and captured Chinese troops.
China overturns its zero COVID policy in response to nationwide riots and protests
Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully target military infrastructure and airbases deep inside Russia.
Following the killing of an Iranian protestor and the reinstating of the morality police, anti government protests see an enormous resurgence across Iran.
Pro Slavic ethno-nationalist movements across the Balkans and central Europe have sprung up in support of the Russian government
A German aristocrat has been arrested alongside several co conspirators for attempting to overthrow the German government and reinstitute a German Reich.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Navy has opened a major shipyard in Southern China, built to construct any of the ships in the PLN inventory.
The Continuation of Peru’s Political Crisis
The Republic of Peru finds itself in turmoil after a coup attempt by former President Pedro Castillo failed. Protests across the nation followed, which led to deaths and other injuries; as well as damage to government infrastructure. As the new President Dina Boularte tries to calm the situation in the country, left-wing populist leaders in Latin America are voicing their support for Castillo. Peru has endured a political crisis for over five years and seen as many presidents in that period of time.
Peruvian Political Crisis: 2017-Present
Pedro Castillo’s exit from the presidency follows a decades long history of Peruvian presidents being removed, or resigning, from office. The crisis began in part due to Operation Car Wash, a wide reaching criminal investigation by Brazil’s Federal Police which included Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht S.A. Car Wash is the largest anti-corruption investigation in Brazil’s history and led to repercussions in other Latin American countries as well. In 2016, it was discovered that Peru’s then-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s company Western Capital Ltd. had received $782,000 in illegal payments from Odebrecht while he was the country’s finance minister in 2005 and 2006. A first impeachment attempt against PPK, as he is locally known, failed in 2017; but before a second impeachment attempt took place in 2018, he resigned.
Martín Vizcarra, the First Vice President at the time, was sworn into office and replaced PPK. Vizcarra spent his entire two year tenure at odds with the nation’s Congress, which is a common theme throughout this political crisis. He was removed from office in November 2020 after his second impeachment over bribery allegations that occurred while he served in other offices prior to becoming vice president.
In accordance with the presidential line of succession established in the Peruvian Constitution, Manuel Merino, the President of Congress, was sworn in and replaced Vizcarra. Vizacarra’s Second Vice President resigned during the president’s impeachment proceedings, leaving the office open. Merino’s tenure was incredibly short. Protests in support of Vizcarra broke out in Peru after his removal from office. During those protests, two demonstrators were killed and Merino was given a choice by Congress: resign or face impeachment proceedings. Merino chose the latter after just five days in office. A poll conducted by Ipsos showed that 94% of respondents disapproved of Merino taking the presidency.
Merino was replaced by Congressman Francisco Sagasti. Sagasti was voted in as the President of Congress the day after Merino resigned in order to be elevated to the country’s presidency. The next day, Sagasti became President of Peru on November 17th, 2020. His administration referred to itself as a “transitional and emergency government”. He was originally set to run for Second Vice President in 2021, but decided against it in order to better tend to his duties as president. On July 28th, 2021, Sagasti finally completed the five-year term that began with PPK and Peru got its first elected president since 2016.
Who is Pedro Castillo?
On July 28th, 2021, Pedro Castillo was sworn in as President of Peru as the candidate of the Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party. He beat Keiko Fujimori of right-wing populist Popular Force party by a small majority of 50.13% of the vote.
Born to a peasant family in San Luis de Puña, Castillo and his family were products of left-wing socioeconomic policies. His father was a worker on a hacienda when General Juan Velasco Alvarado became president through a military coup and redistributed wealth from landowners to peasants. As a result, Castillo’s father received a plot of land where he and his eight other siblings would be raised.
The 53-year-old Castillo worked as an elementary school teacher in his hometown. He was also a union leader and a prominent figure in a teacher’s strike in 2017. Castillo says he decided to run for president after seeing the lack of resources in rural Peru and particularly how it affected his students. He was able to gain political support because of his work as a schoolteacher and also as a patrolman for Rondas campesinas, peasant militias that defended against the Maoist guerillas of the Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso, English: Shining Path). Those two occupations are respected within Peruvian society.
Castillo's initial cabinet was made up of leftists. Three ministers came from Free Peru and three others were former school teachers that he is close to. Some Peruvian journalists believe that by choosing a cabinet that Congress would see as unappealing, he was baiting them into twice voting no-confidence in his cabinet, which according to the constitution would allow him to dissolve Congress. In the aftermath of choosing the cabinet, the Purple Party and We Are Peru left the government coalition, leaving Free Peru and its allies as a minority government in Congress.
Before the events surrounding the coup on December 7th, Congress already tried to impeach Castillo twice. The first attempt came in November 2021, when Keiko Fujimori and her Popular Force party accused Castillo, and some of his ministers, of influence peddling. However, impeachment proceedings were not launched due to 76 out of 130 members of Congress voting against them. 52 votes in favor would have been needed to begin the proceedings.
In March 2022, Fujimori and her allies again attempted to impeach Castillo on allegations of his corruption. Impeachment proceedings were approved and the final vote to impeach was 55 in favor, 54 against, and 19 abstaining. 87 out of 130 votes are needed to impeach and remove a president. Reporting and leaked Telegram messages from February showed that Fujimorist politicians were planning a coordinated plot to remove Castillo from office and install President of the Congress Maricarmen Alva as his successor.
The Coup Attempt & Impeachment
On December 7th, Congress was set to convene for another impeachment attempt on Pedro Castillo, accusing him of “permanent moral incapacity”. Before Congress could convene that day, Castillo gave a public speech in which he announced the dissolution of Congress and the enactment of an immediate nationwide curfew. At that point, Congress had not twice confirmed a vote of no-confidence for Castillo and his cabinet, making the dissolution unconstitutional. Also in the speech, he accused Congress of violating the “rule of law to establish a congressional dictatorship”. He announced that a new Congress would be elected and draft an entirely new constitution within nine months. Lastly, he ordered citizens in possession of privately owned firearms to surrender them to the National Police within 72 hours.
Internal reactions to the move by Castillo were immediate. Multiple members of his cabinet resigned, including the prime minister, ministers of labor, economy, foreign relations, and justice. His actions were publicly condemned by the Constitutional Court, the Armed Forces, and the National Police; the latter of which he relied on to ensure the success of his actions. Congress refused to cooperate with the attempted dissolution and confirmed their intent to hold the impeachment vote later that day. Members of the National Police were seen locking down the capitol area to facilitate the session of Congress. Additionally, the lawyer that was set to represent Castillo in the impeachment hearing dropped him as a client, citing his loyalty to the constitution.
Congress voted to impeach and remove Castillo from office with 101 votes in favor, six opposed, and 10 abstentions. Castillo fled to the Government Palace in Lima and made a phone call to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, asking him for asylum. AMLO believes Castillo’s phone was tapped by Peruvian intelligence after security forces surrounded the Mexican embassy to prevent Castillo from entering. The former president was arrested on his way to the embassy and was charged with rebellion. First Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in as Peru’s first female president that afternoon.
International reactions to the events have been mixed. Spain and the United States expressed their support for Boluarte and condemned the actions of Castillo. Likewise the administration of outgoing right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and left-wing President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva expressed their support for the new president. Mexico officially announced that it does not recognize the government of Dina Boluarte as legitimate and would have granted asylum to Castillo if he had made it to the embassy in Lima. Other Latin American countries run by left-wing populists condemned the removal and arrest of Castillo, calling it a coup d’etat by the Congress. This includes Chile, Colombia, Argentina, and Venezuela.
Protests and riots in support of Castillo have erupted across Peru. They are demanding the removal of Boluarte from office and the replacement of all members of Congress.
At least seven demonstrators have been killed, all reportedly by gunfire. Among the dead are 18-year-old Jonathan Encino Arias and Wilfredo Lizarme; as well as two minors, 17-year-old Beckham Romario Quispe Garfias and a 16-year-old with the initials R.P.M.L. Many other demonstrators have been injured and 119 police officers have been injured as well.
In the city of Andahualyas, rioters attacked 14 police stations, including one that was attacked with explosives. Rioters also attacked the city’s Huancabamba airport and set fire to multiple areas in-and-outside of the airport. Officials reported that rioters seized control of the airport and captured 50 police officers and airport employees. The Anti-Terrorism Director of the National Police, General Oscar Arriola, stated that police have identified members of MOVADEF, the political wing of Shining Path, as actively participating in the demonstrations. In the department of Apurimac, which holds Andahualyas, a 60-day state of emergency was declared. This includes the suspension of constitutional rights, such as the “freedom of transit through the national territory (and) the freedom of assembly”.
In the city of Arequipa, as many as 2,000 rioters stormed the city’s international airport and set fire to multiple areas. This halted traffic on the runway and operations inside airport terminals.
Rioters have also attacked court houses, a military base, and factories. Demonstrations, both protests and riots, show no signs for letting up1.
Attacks on the US Power Grid Spark Concerns Over Vulnerability
Recent attacks in multiple states on the American power grid have left more questions than answers. Tens of thousands of people have at some point been left without power in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Federal and local law enforcement are working to find suspects in relation to these attacks. These incidents harken back to the 2013 Metcalf sniper attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric substation in northern California.
On April 16th, 2013, unknown gunmen attacked the PG&E Metcalf transmission substation in Coyote, California, which lies between Morgan Hill and San Jose. The substation provides power to parts of Silicon Valley, California’s tech powerhouse.
What is assumed to be multiple shooters entered the area just before 1:00 am and cut AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables in order to increase response times from authorities. At around 1:30 am, a security camera recorded a streak of light that the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office believed was a signal from a flashlight. That streak of light was followed by muzzle flashes from rifles being fired and bullets hitting a chain-link fence surrounding the substation. An engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service made a 911 call at 1:41 and at 1:51 am the first law enforcement units arrived on the scene. The area was quiet and everything appeared normal so the officers left the scene. The shooters had still been in the area one minute before responders arrived, as a camera at the time picked up what is likely another flashlight signal marking the end of the assault.
Over 100 7.62x39mm casings were found on the scene, a round which is most commonly associated with the AK-47 assault rifle and some of its derivatives. In addition, small piles of rocks were discovered at points where shots had been fired, leading investigators to believe that they were placed there prior to the attack in order to identify ideal firing positions. No fingerprints or other DNA evidence in relation to the attack was found in the area. Former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jon Wellinghof called the attack “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the (power) grid that has ever occurred”. However, the FBI stated that they do not believe a terrorist organization was responsible.
The shooters damaged 17 power transformers and inflicted $15 million worth of damage. Some areas temporarily lost power, but a regional black-out was averted by rerouting power from nearby stations. A Department of Homeland Security investigation concluded that
the attack may have been committed by an insider; but no suspects have ever been identified in relation to the incident.
November and December Attacks
On December 4th, in the early evening, two power stations in Moore County, North Carolina were hit by gunfire. Damage caused to the stations left 45,000 county residents without power until December 10th. Federal, state, and local authorities began investigating the incident as an intentional attack. It was initially speculated that the motive for the attack may have been to stop a locally held drag show; however no official motive or suspects have been identified. A $75,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of suspects involved has been offered.
Moore County officials declared a state of emergency and state officials announced a curfew that was in effect from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am
Another attack in North Carolina was recently detailed that took place in the town of Maysville on November 11th. In that town, 12,000 businesses and homes were left without power for two hours after a suspected attack. That incident is still under investigation as well.
Officials in the Pacific Northwest have reported that six attacks on energy infrastructure took place in Oregon and Washington last month. Energy companies in charge of the affected facilities say that firearms were used in at least two of those attacks. The FBI is involved in the investigations regarding these attacks as well.
On December 8th, gunfire was reported near the Wateree Hydro Station in Kershaw County, South Carolina. While no injuries or property damage were recorded, an investigation has been launched into this report2.
The course of Peru’s political crisis is still unclear. As a former member of Free Peru Boluarte will likely find herself in the crosshairs of the right-wing controlled Congress. Keiko Fujimori’s clear desire for high office should also be taken into account. In order to ease tensions with pro-Castillo demonstrators, the president and Congress agreed to move the next general election from April 2026 to April 2024. However, demonstrations will likely continue for some time, especially as we watch the criminal case against Castillo unfold. If the casualty toll from civil unrest grows, Congress may place the blame on Boluarte, just as they did with Manuel Merino in 2020. In the midst of COVID-19, a poor economy, mass labor strikes, and social strife, the last thing Peru needs is more impeachment proceedings. However, it is not out of the question. If Boluarte is removed from office before her term ends, the President of Congress, José Williams, would ascend to the presidency in accordance with the Constitution.
Attacks on power infrastructure across the United States in the past nine years have revealed the vulnerability of the nation’s power grid to attacks like these. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis recently warned that “domestic extremists” have created plans to attack power stations that date back to at least 2020. Potential attackers will be watching to see if the United States can add sufficient security to power stations moving forward. They will also watch to see if investigations surrounding these attacks are successful in identifying and bringing suspects to justice. Thus far, they have not been able to accomplish that. The vulnerability of the nation’s infrastructure, both energy related and other types, should be a commonly occurring conversation. In the past this has not been the case, but we will see if the aforementioned incidents change that.
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