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Peruvian elections - Radio round

by Mika Mäkeläinen

Peruvians went to the polls on April 9th 2000 to elect a president and a new parliament. I went along - to report on what proved to be the first round of the elections and on other issues for YLE TV News. Traveling around the country from April 1st to 12th I also seized the chance to visit a few Peruvian radio stations on the way. Most Peruvian stations are notoriously tough to QSL, so I was armed with a bunch of reception reports from myself and other Finnish DXers.

After a few hours of sleep, before dawn on April 2nd, the crew set out on a lengthy journey over the Andes - the crew meaning the driver of a four-wheel drive UN pick-up, me the reporter, my Peruvian field producer and my Spanish cameraman.

Map of Peru

From Lima, the road rapidly crept up to 4818 meters above sea level. Patches of snow covered the roadside at the highest point in Ticlio, after which the filthy effluents of the Andean mining towns began to flow east, to the Amazon.

My field producer was hit by altitude sickness, but the descent was only gradual and so relief took some time. We had a late breakfast in La Oroya with the next stop being in Junín, still 4105 meters above sea level. Junín of course is the home of Radio Libertad, so I couldn't resist paying a brief visit, even though KLM had lost my luggage and I had no reception reports to present them.

Obviously, the lost luggage was a much greater problem for my assignment in the selva, the Peruvian jungle, since I had lost everything from mosquito repellent to background documents and all my clothes - all of which I got only after four days when back in Lima.

Radio Libertad de Junin

Radio Libertad de Junín (5039 kHz) is located at Jirón Cerro de Pasco No. 582, a dirt alley not far from the beautiful center of Junín. The station letterhead still gives the previous address, Jirón Simón Bolivar 497. I was welcomed by Director gerente Mauro Chaccha Guere, his wife and Luis Molina Llanos, who had just finished hosting the morning program. You may hear Molina's voice also in the early evening hours local time, which is prime time for picking up Peruvian stations in Europe.

Molina took advantage of our visit by making an interview and by recording a few promos in different languages. Now you may even hear a station identification in English, Finnish or Swedish!

Radio Libertad de Junin
Mission accomplished

Chaccha explained that Junín is suffering from a prolonged economic depression, which according to him is partly due to the economic policies of President Alberto Fujimori. By lowering tolls Fujimori has paved way for the import of meat from neighbouring Ecuador, which has hit hard on the less efficient livestock production in the Junín region. Still, sheep and alpaka were grazing the endless steppe surrounding Junín, and roadside farms offered fresh cheese for sale.

As a consequence of the recession, Radio Libertad de Junín has suffered from the lack of listeners' paid messages, and with practically no commercial advertising, the station is on the verge of going bankrupt, says Chaccha. Election campaign ads were few.

All this means that as foreign correspondence does not generate any income, Chaccha is not particularly interested in responding to reception reports. No wonder also considering what he receives: the first reception report his wife showed me - if you can call it a reception report - was from some Mr. Bellabarba... After my requests, Chaccha and his wife were able to locate some more decent reports, and I was happy to receive verifications for myself, Tuomas Talka and Juha Ignatius.

Radio Libertad de Junin QSL

Chaccha offered us local booze made of a plant called maka. And so we toasted to a better future for Radio Libertad de Junín. As for a better future for DXers vying for a QSL, you could try paying generously for all the expenses - that should improve your odds from the otherwise zero probability. The station does know very well what DXers want, but responding seems to be mostly a question of money and interest.

After Junín our journey took us to the grim mining town of Cerro de Pasco (4333 meters above sea level), where we tried to visit Radio Altura. It was Sunday, and the offices were closed, only the host of the ongoing show was working. He did a quick interview of us, but we weren't able to browse the reports the station had received.

We then continued down to the real wild west, the seedy town of Tingo Maria and the adjacent Valle del Monzón (Monzón River Valley), which is the worldwide center of coca growing. Tracing the illegal coca business here in the ceja de la selva (eyebrow of the jungle) of the Upper Huallaga Valley was quite an adventure: at one point we narrowly escaped from being robbed by highway bandits who had set up a roadblock. Several cars were held up before local campesinos took up arms, which resulted in a firefight in the jungle. The only surprising feature of the incident was that eventually someone bothered to inform the police about it.

We got our share of risks throughout the journey: a couple of days later - near Huancayo - in the press convoy of President Alberto Fujimori, we luckily avoided a car accident, in which one cameraman was killed and seven other people injured. And a few days later in Cusco, I fortunately happened to take a helicopter instead of the alternative medium, a train, which derailed because of a landslide...

I have spared the details of these adventures for the television audience of my very own TV News and Atlas, a current affairs show of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).

One of my stories from Peru - about coca cultivation and efforts to reduce it - has also been aired on CNN World Report. On the CNN website you can view the transcript of this story - or even order the video. But now, back to the radio scene.

Radio Tawantinsuyo

Five days later, alive but suffering from high fever as a result of catching salmonella in the jungle, I visited Cusco (spelled also as Cuzco or Qosqo, the politically most correct version). Cusco, at an altitude of 3300 meters, used to be the heart of the Inca empire - Qosqo meaning the navel of the world. The inca nation was called Tahuantinsuyu (or Tawantinsuyo), meaning the four corners of the world. And its current voice, Radio Tawantinsuyo, indeed reaches the four corners of the world.

Radio Tawantinsuyo QSL

I picked up Radio Tawantinsuyo years ago on 6173 kHz, off the nominal frequency of 6175 kHz. Long ago the station used also 4910 kHz in the 60 meter band. Locally it is received on 91.3 FM and regionally on 1190 kHz AM.

Radio Tawantinsuyo is located on Cusco's main street, Avenida del Sol 806, but mail can be sent to Casilla 39. On the street level there is a counter where listeners can leave their paid messages, mensajes, which is the main source of income for the station. A studio is located on the same level, while offices are upstairs.

Radio Tawantinsuyo claims to be the most popular station in Cusco. It was founded in 1948. Station manager, Ing. Raúl Montesinos Espejo has been in charge throughout the years. Recently a book about his long career and the history of his station was published under the title Una Vida y un Rumbo.

The office of Montesinos is covered by diplomas. Some of them are from Bolivia, where Montesinos began his broadcasting career in 1941 by founding Radio Rural in the city of Cochabamba. Today the same station is known as Radio Cultura (1090 kHz). The Cusco station was also began on mediumwaves under the name Radio Rural. Competition with Radio Cusco was fierce, but eventually there was room for both. In 1955 a shortwave transmitter was added, and in 1956 the station was officially renamed Radio Tawantinsuyo.

Montesinos has always wanted to promote the indigenous culture of the heirs of the Inca nation. The format of Radio Tawantinsuyo - mostly traditional folk music (huaynos) - is an expression of this. In 1973 Montesinos initiated the creation of the flag of Tawantinsuyo, which today decorates the Plaza de Armas (central square of Cusco) along with the official Peruvian flag.

Montesinos has founded and named after himself a museum of traditional local clothing. An item from the collection is featured on the Radio Tawantinsuyo folder used as a QSL. Montesinos is also involved in the most famous Cusco festival, the Inti Raymi (the Festival of the Sun), held annually on June 24th. That's when the day is shortest, and fires are lit to bring back the sun.

Montesinos is happy that his station can be heard abroad - but he's not known for having much interest in verifying reception reports. At my request, I received verifications for myself and five other Finnish DXers (Jarmo Havukunnas, Markus Salonen, Jim Solatie, Ilkka Suni and Hannu Tikkanen).

Radio La Hora

This cusqueña station is an offspring of Radio Tawantinsuyo. Located in the same block, with an address on Avenida Garcilaso, Radio La Hora (1400 and 4855 kHz) is headed by Edmundo Montesinos G., the son of Raúl Montesinos Espejo. Edmundo learned the trade at his father's station, and later set up a station of his own, with a profile aimed at a younger audience. Accordingly, the station has a slogan La Emisora de la Juventud.

Radio La Hora

Montesinos junior hasn't displayed much more interest in reception reports than his father, but fortunately he has allowed someone else to take care of replying to reports. Mr. Carlos Gamarra Moscoso works at the station and is a shortwave listener himself. Some sources name him as Director, but he is (only) Director de Frecuencias. I believe that in this case title matters, as Mr. Montesinos might find it a bit annoying if the person getting all the mail is being called the boss. Carlos was not at the station when I visited, but luckily he came by at the hotel later, when I was bedridden with fever.

For the past couple of years Carlos has done his QSL-duties with an utmost sense of dedication and responsibility, and has kept a detailed log of all reports received and all verifications sent out. He has tried to send out verifications for many old reports as well, but some have bounced back due to outdated addresses, which is the main reason why he hasn't been able to deliver all confirmations. If you haven't received a reply, please send a follow-up to Carlos, preferably with a return postage. A reply is guaranteed for all correct reports - he does check them.

Carlos has just one wish: please do let him know once you have received the verification. The mail service is somewhat unreliable, and Carlos is very worried that some of the QSLs sent by him never reach recipients - he definitely knows the value of QSLs. So, all of you who have received a QSL from him, he would really appreciate a short thank you note.

It wouldn't hurt if you also told Gerente Montesinos how much you appreciate the efforts of Carlos Gamarra Moscoso, whose dedication is indeed unparallelled in all of Peru. Instead of the station address, Carlos says however that reports reach him with more certainty, if sent to his home address: Avenida Garcilaso No. 411, Wanchaq, Cusco. And as he is DXer, I am sure he would enjoy receiving the same kind of radio memorabilia that all we DXers love to collect.

Both Carlos and Edmundo by the way should already be wearing their stylish YLE caps under the scorching sun of the highlands... I later sent Carlos also my WRTH - a book which would otherwise be out of reach for any Peruvian DXer outside the capital.

During the first week of July 2000 Radio La Hora is hoping to inaugurate a new 2-kilowatt shortwave transmitter, doubling the present power. Funding for the new transmitter is however still partly unresolved.

Radio San Miguel

Although difficult, I will try to comment something without risking a libel action. To put it briefly, despite feeling very sick, I endured nearly two hours at the station, because they wanted to interview me not only on radio (like all the other stations), but also on TV. The company has a local TV channel called CTC.

While waiting for my turn in the limelight, watching the midday show made me feel even worse, as I didn't expect to witness such blatant political propaganda for Fujimori. A local congressional candidate for the Peru 2000 alliance was interviewed with family and friends, who along with the host competed in praising el chino and his politics.

Every ten minutes the Fujimori campaign rock video was aired, and the show ended with everyone in the studio dancing and singing the Fujimori campaign song. Cut with scenes from the rock video, it was quite a spectacle. Behind the cameras, the station manager was clapping his hands, urging the crew to develop a hypnotic climax in praising the supreme leader.

This is not to say I would dislike the political agenda of President Fujimori - I try not to take sides - but I couldn't avoid seeing how many of the charges concerning questionable campaigning on the part of the government and government-controlled media were true. The state is the biggest advertiser in Peru, and by channelling ad revenue to favorable stations, the government has firm control over most major television stations and newspapers - in comparison with them radio seems to fare relatively well.

Back to Radio San Miguel. After the ordeal was over, I asked for a verification for a few reports I had with me. It couldn't be done right away, but confirmations would be brought later to my hotel - so I was promised. Several phonecalls during the following two days resulted in the same response - but promises were just promises. And I made the grave mistake of giving them a YLE cap...

Fucking Radio San Miguel became my primitive reaction to all irritating situations during the rest of the journey. Yea, I know, you can't demand a QSL...

CPN Lima

One of the main AM stations in the capital Lima, Cadena Peruana de Noticias, or CPN Radio for short, was actually not very different from the above-mentioned pest. Operating on 1470 kHz, it is heard pretty often in Finland, but never replies to reception reports. On March 23rd I once again heard the station, with its overnight program Haciendo la Noche, and sent another reception report.

CPN Radio

I told CPN that I would be coming over to Lima. CPN then eagerly tried to get a hold of me, and so I had a bunch of messages waiting for me when I got my election accreditation at the International press center in Lima. It turned out however that they were only interested in interviewing me. Late one evening just before midnight I got a surprise call to my hotel room, and immediately I was taken live for ten minutes. Their mission accomplished, I found it difficult to try to arrange a visit to the station. Finally, on the day of my departure, I had some spare time in Lima, and I visited the station uninvited.

The station is not located at the Paseo de la República address given by the WRTH, but the Peruvian postal service still forwards all mail to the correct address, which is Calle General Salaverry No. 156, Miraflores, Lima 18.

I was asked to contact Zenaida Solis, Directora de Programas, who kept me waiting in an underground lobby, but did eventully write me a confirmation letter, probably just to get rid of me. I didn't even get to see her. Through a messenger she told me that she was too busy to take a look at the other ten reports I had brought along. I was left with a promise of getting the confirmations later by mail. After a couple of months, Winston Montoya verified part of the reports by e-mail.

Radio Nacional del Perú

The national radio is of course a prime example of a pro-government voice, operating under the Ministry of Education, but aside from that, the station gave a very professional image. The oldest broadcaster in Peru (on air since 1925) is based in a mansion-like building at Avenida Petit Thouars 447, Santa Beatriz, Lima 1.

Radio Nacional

The WRTH information also on this one is a bit outdated; at the moment the station is not broadcasting on 6095 kHz, and does not intend to return to shortwaves. Instead, the station is planning to broadcast on the internet. Radio Nacional has several AM and FM affiliates around Peru, in Lima the AM frequency is 850 kHz. Station director is nowadays Carlos Fuentes Chavez.

Fuentes was very friendly, and was happy to write verifications for the three reception reports I had brought along (for me, Markus Salonen and Ilkka Suni). And you know who's wearing the famous YLE cap - I got a Radio Nacional cap in return.

Radio América

Another capital station, which has no intention to return to its former shortwave frequency of 6010 kHz. Nowadays transmissions are 24 hours a day, but only on FM 94.3 MHz and the Internet at the Radio América website.

Radio America

The station is located at Montero Rosas 1099, Santa Beatriz, not far from the Radio Nacional building. I got a confirmation for my ancient 1988 report, signed by Victor Tejada Zavaleta, Productor General, who also verified a report for Ilkka Suni. Mr. Tejada and Jorge Arriola Vivian, Jefe de Marketing & Promociones, showed me around the station and took me to the studio. Leaving another YLE cap I walked out with a Radio America t-shirt...

Radio Santa Rosa

Unlike the other Lima stations which I visited, this one is situated in the old downtown. I made a brief surprise visit, as the station happened to be located near the office of the state ombudsman, whom I interviewed. In fact, the station is located inside a monastery, Convento Santo Domingo, at Jirón Camaná 170. The alternative mail address is Casilla Postal 4451, Lima 1.

Radio Santa Rosa QSL

I picked up Radio Santa Rosa on 1500 kHz just two days before going to Peru. The station has been heard abroad often also on (or actually slightly off) the shortwave frequency of 6045 kHz. An employee took me to see Director, Padre Juan Sokolich A., O.P., who signed a QSL card. But a personal visit is really not necessary. The station is known to verify promptly, and can be contacted easily. The station has both a website and an e-mail address.

Radio Santa Rosa was founded in 1958, and on the occasion of their 40th anniversary in 1998, a commemorative magazine, or more likely a book, on the station was published, sponsored by a couple of banks! About one third of the programming is religious and another one third traditional cultural programming.

Radio Santa Rosa is a good station to begin DXing Peruvian radio stations. Not least because you're likely to get a QSL in return - and you don't need to take the Peruvian radio round yourself...

(published on April 22nd 2000, last update on April 24th 2002)

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