Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"Eight engineers were taken hostage in a remote Peruvian village after 5G conspiracy theories combined with a long-standing mistrust of outsiders"

Cinematic setup:
What began as a routine maintenance job soon turned into a complex hostage situation. On June 9, four subcontractors working for Israeli telecoms firm Gilat were dispatched to fix an internet mast amid a remote cluster of indigenous settlements in the central Peruvian Andes, a little over 13,000 feet above sea level. The team failed to return the next day, and the comunidad campesina Chopcca went dark.

The following morning, another two engineers were sent to investigate. One managed to relay back a pair of cellphone videos — of the fire-blackened antenna, its burned-out apparatus, and an angry crowd — before they also went offline.


Violent reactions to fake news about 5G are an emerging “global phenomenon,” noted Américo Mendoza-Mori, a professor of Quechua at the University of Pennsylvania. In April 2020, more than 70 telecoms masts were damaged in apparent arson attacks across the United Kingdom, with similar episodes taking place in Australia, New Zealand, and Cyprus as well as in neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. More importantly, Mendoza-Mori sees the fierce Chopcca response as bound up with a long legacy of brutal racism, which includes a mass sterilization campaign in the 1990s that disproportionately targeted Quechua-speaking indigenous peoples.