Cajamarca: Conga occupation not moved

Campesinos from some 40 pueblos across Celendín province, in Peru’s northern region of Cajamarca, held a meeting at Huasmín village Oct. 23 to announce a cross-country march that would arrive in mid-November at the planned site of the Conga gold mine, where marchers would join the encampment that has been established there. Campesinos have occupied the site for months to protect alpine lakes slated be destroyed to make way for open-pit operations. By Nov. 24, which will mark the two-year anniversary of the start of the protest action, the ​Celendín campesinos hope to have a “Casa Rondera” built on private land adjacent to the Conga site which has been volunteered for the cause by local residents. The casa will be a communal residence for the protesters, who are organized in rondas, peasant self-defense patrols. (Servindi, Oct. 25; Celendin Libre, Oct. 23)

Comuneros (communal peasants) in Celendín’s Yagén pueblo, Cortegana district, weeks earlier announced their readiness to resist the Chadín II hydro-electric project, to be built by Brazilian firm Odebrecht in the headwaters of the Río Marañón, a major tributary of the Amazon—with much of of the energy generated slated for local mining operations. In a statement, the Defense Front for the Interests of Pueblo Yagén said they would reject thecanonof funds offered to local communities for development of the project in their area. The statement also rejected offers of new roads for local communities, saying they would only facilitate  the despoiling of their lands by Odebrecht’s heavy equipment. 

The statement responded to claims that large-scale hydro power is an ecological alternative to fossil fuels. “They tell us the project will provide clean energy, but it will generate great quantities of methane gas and contribute enormously to global warming and climate change, as well as negatively altering the climate in our communities; destroying nearly all the varieties of fish in our river; and robbing us of our lands to remove us to places we do not know… They tell us the energy produced will be for the development of our pueblos… They don’t tell us that this energy is indispensable for the functioning of the fourteen mineral mega-projects such as the Conga mineral project of the transnational Yanacocha…which is destroying Cajamarca.” The statement closed with the slogan: “Neither Conga nor Chadín! Respect the people!” (Celendin Libre, Sept. 30)

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