Peru: new confrontation at Conga mine site
In a new mobilization on the contested Conga mine site in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, hundreds of local campesinos on Jan. 16 again marched to the shores of the alpine lakes that would be destroyed by the project. National daily La Republica, citing unnamed sources, said the marchers pushed past security guards, and caused "disturbances" and "material damage" to equipment of the Yanacocha mining company. One protester was reported arrested by National Police troops. However, Cajamarca-baed popular organization Tierra y Libertad in a statement on Facebook said only that some 2,000 ronderos (members of the peasant self-defense patrols) from the local provinces of Bambamarca and Celendín marched on the site, taking a six-hour roundabout way through mountain paths to avoid the roadblocks "illegally maintained" by National Police and Yanacocha security.
The regional governor of Cajamarca, Ever Hernández, defended the right of protesters to mobilize, and said he had no power to prohibit or interfere with it. But he added that his administration would cooperate with the National Police to protect public and private property. (RPP, Jan. 15) Days earlier, he expressed support for President Ollanta Humala's plans for an expansion of mineral development in Cajamarca, charging that the region experienced negative economic growth last year. (America Economia, Dec. 30)
However, this was immediately refuted by Cajamarca's left-wing regional president, Gregorio Santos, who said, "There is no economic recession in Cajamarca." (RPP, Jan. 3) The regional president is an elected position, while governors are appointed by the national executive to coordinate security concerns. Santos, an outspoken opponent of the Conga project, recently launched a Social Affirmation Movement (MAS), as a platform to oppose President Humala from the left on the national stage. (RPP, Jan. 6)