Cajamarca: campesino family convicted in retrial

The Penal Court of Celendín, in Peru's Cajamarca region, sentenced three members of the Chaupe family—Jaime Chaupe, Máxima Acuña, Elías Chávez and Isidora Chaupe—to two years and eight months in prison for the crime of land usurpation against the Yanacocha mineral company. The contested land, in Sorochuco district, Celendín province, is located in the influence zone of the contested Conga mega-mine project. The sentence may be suspended, but the defendants were also fined 5,000 soles, approximately $2,000. Yanacocha's lawyers argued that the presence of a company road through the disputed 30-hectare plot indicated the company's prior ownership of it. Mirtha Vásquez, counsel for the Chaupe family, countered that the company had never legally registered its ownership of the plot since purportedly purchasing it in 1996.

The company's lead attorney, Rodolfo Antonio Sobero, also charged that the family had compromised judicial neutrality by sending a letter to the magistrate hearing the case. "They are the victimizers," he said. "They try to pass as poor campesinos, but they have influence that reaches all the way to the Supreme Court."

The Chaupe family says they will appeal. The family was cleared of the charges by an appeals court last year, but Yanacocha succeeded in winning a retrial. (Servindi, El Comercio, Aug. 5; Conga Conflict, Nov. 12)