Cajamarca

Peru: legal persecution of anti-mining activists

A trial opened in Peru's Cajamarca region March 6 against 16 community leaders facing charges for their participation in a 2012 protest against the Conga mining project. According an indictment filed by the 2nd Provincial Criminal Prosecutor's Office of Celendín, the defendants—all local social leaders, including five women—may face up to 36 years in prison if convicted. The case stems from the July 2012 violence in the provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca, in which five protesters were killed by National Police troops. Among the accused is Milton Sánchez Cubas, secretary-general of the Inter-Institutional Platform of Celendín, for whom the Inter-American Court on Human Rights had recently issued "precuationary measures" due to threats on his life.

Prize-winning peasant ecologist attacked in Peru

Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, the campesina grandmother in Peru's Cajamarca region who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for defense of her lands from the Yanacocha mining company, survived an attack that took place on her property the morning of Sept. 18. "She has fainted!" are the last words heard in a video recorded by Yanacocha security personnel. The video indicates between 15 and 20 helmeted security guards entered Acuña's property, and began uprooting a 200-square-meter field planted with potatoes and yucca. When Acuña and her husband, Jaime Chaupe, began shouting and throwing rocks, they were set upon by security guards, sustaining blows to the body and head. Yanacocha claims the family is illegally occupying the field, and issued a statement saying the company was "peacefully exercizing its rights" in the incident.

Peru: anti-mining politician released from prison

The suspended president of Peru's Cajamarca region and former presidential candidate Gregorio Santos was released from Piedras Gordas (Ancón I) prison outside Lima July 27, following a decision by the country's Supreme Court to annul an extension of his "preventative detention." Walking through the gates of the prison, he greeted hundreds of supporters gathered there, telling them that "preventative detention" is being used for "political vengeance" in Peru. Santos was detained in 2014, ostensibly while judicial authorities investigated corruption accusations. But no formal charges were ever brought, and Santos maintains he was imprisoned to sabotage his political career and as retribution for opposing the US-backed Conga mega-mining project. Santos said that thousands are unjustly held in "preventative detention" across the country, often for political reasons.

Peru: peasant mine opponent wins Goldman Prize

Maxima Acuña, a campesina grandmother from Peru's northern Cajamarca region, has been named the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for South and Central America for her struggle to defend her family's lands from Newmont Mining. "A subsistence farmer in Peru's northern highlands, Maxima Acuña stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land, a property sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining to develop the Conga gold and copper mine," the prize's official webpage indicates. At the award ceremony in San Francisco April 18, Acuña denied being a social leader, saying: "I only want them to leave me in peace on my land and that they do not contaminate my water." Considered the "Green Nobel," the Goldman Prize honors grassroots activists for significant achievements in protecting the environment worldwide.

Peru elections: 'dangerous farce'?

Reuters takes relief that Peruvian markets jumped on April 11 as results showed two "free-market candidates" emerging victorious from the previous day's first-round presidential race. "Conservative" Keiko Fujimori, with an estimated 40% of the vote, will now face "centrist" Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, with some 22%, in a June run-off. Markets evidently reacted favorably to the failure of "nationalist" Veronika Mendoza to make the second round, winning only some 18%. As the headline put it: "Two pro-business candidates make Peru runoff, markets rise." The BBC News calls Fujimori "centre-right." New York Times also calls Kuczynski "centrist" and (more accurately) Keiko "right-wing." These labels reveal illusions, and the degree to which what used to be the right is now considered the "center." Kuczynski (known by his initials PPK) is a former World Bank economist and veteran cabinet minister under the presidency of Alejandro Toledo. He is the one who is actually the "conservative" of the "center-right"—a standard neoliberal technocrat. Fujimori's intransigent and unapologetic defense of her father Alberto Fujimori—who ruled as a dictator in the '90s and is now imprisoned for assassinations and human rights abuses—clearly places her on the far right.

Panama Papers pummel Peru politicians

Some 50,000 Peruvians filled Lima's Plaza San Martín to recall the April 5, 1992 "autogolpe" (suspension of civil government) by then-president Alberto Fujimori—and to repudiate the presidential ambitions of his daughter Keiko Fujimori, front-runner with the election just five days away. (La República) The mobilization came just as candidate Fujimori (of the right-wing Fuerza Popular party) and three of her rivals have been implicated in the "Panama Papers" revelations. Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano announced via Twitter that the revelations must be investigated promptly. The 11 million documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca name political figures from around the world as hiding assets in offshore accounts. Peruvian public-interest media outlet Ojo Publico was a key conduit for the leak. (PeruThisWeek, Andina)

Peru: populist pursues presidency from prison

Left-populist presidential candidate Gregorio Santos Guerrero insists he will run in Peru's April election—despite remaining behind bars at Ancón I prison outside Lima. Santos, affectionately known as "Goyo," was already re-elected to the presidency of the northern region of Cajamarca from prison in 2014, and officially remains the region's executive. He says his "preventative detention" under pending corruption charges is political retaliation for his advocacy for the peasants and poor of Cajamarca—especially his support of the region's popular struggle against the US-backed Conga gold mine mega-project, now stalled due to widespread protests. In a statement this month, he said he would not be detained "if the law were applied equally," and scoffed at the notion that he was a flight risk while officially serving as a regional president. While Santos has been imprisoned, Cajamarca's acting executive has been his vice president, Porfirio Medina. (Peru.com, Feb. 12; Andina, Feb. 10; La Republica, Feb. 1)

Peru: hydro opponent slain in Cajamarca

An opponent of the planned Chadín II hydro-electric complex on the Río Marañon in northern Peru was assassinated Dec. 28, gunned down in a hail of five bullets at his home in a rural district of Cajamarca region. Hitler Ananías Rojas Gonzales, 34, was president of the local Ronda Campesina (peasant self-defense patrol), and had recently been elected mayor of the pueblo of Yagen in Cortegana district of Celendín province. Also the vice-president of the Yagen Defense Front, formed to protect the area's natural resources from development interests, he had received numerous death threats for his opposition to the hydro project, as well as legal charges of "kidnapping" (often employed against activists who block traffic during protests). He leaves behind five children. (Servindi, Dec. 28)