Peru: campesino ecological defenders acquitted

Chumbivilcas

Following a trial lasting years, a criminal court in Peru’s Cuzco region on Jan. 30 finally absolved 10 campesinos from Chumbivilcas¬†province of charges related to a 2011 protest against the¬†ANABI¬†mineral project, which they say threatens the headwaters of the Rio¬†Yahuarmayo¬†(also known as the Molino). The defendants‚ÄĒnine men and one woman‚ÄĒare followers of the Tupac Amaru Agrarian Federation of Cuzco (FARTAC). They had been charged with “disturbance,” “deprivation of liberty,” “aggravated property damage,” and other offenses typically used against protesters in Peru. If convicted, they could have faced up to 30 years in prison.¬†The ANABI gold and copper mine is in neighboring Apur√≠mac region, but the minerals are transported through¬†Chumbivilcas on unimproved roads, raising dust that contaminates local lands and waters.¬†(Diario Uno, Jan. 30; Wayka, Jan. 20)

The verdict came just as Chumbivilcas is seeing a new wave of anti-mining protest. Chinese-owned mining company MMG Ltd announced that is is again suspending copper shipments from its giant facility at Las Bambas due to road blockades by campesino protesters in Cuzco. Like the ANABI project, Las Bambas mine is actually in Apurímac, but ships via truck through Chumbivilcas and other impoverished provinces of Cuzco region. (Reuters, Northern Miner, Jan. 30)

Advances on national stage
This week has also seen dramatic advances for progressive forces on Peru’s national stage. In Jan. 26 elections, the right-opposition¬†Popular Force lost its majority in Congress, winning just¬†12 seats in the 130-seat chamber‚ÄĒdown from 73.¬†The party dominated Congress before the body was dissolved by President Mart√≠n Vizcarra in September following lawmakers’ efforts to block investigations into numerous corruption scandals. The centrist Popular Action now holds a slim majority.¬†(NACLA, Jan. 29; BBC News, Reuters, Jan. 27)

Three days after the election, Popular Force leader Keiko Fujimori¬†was ordered back to prison under a 15-month “preventative detention” sentence while corruption charges against her are under investigation. She has already spent 13 months behind bars, but Peru’s Constitutional Court ordered her release in November. The new detention order may also find its way to the high court, but Fujimori meanwhile remains at Lima’s notorious¬†Chorrillos prison.¬†(Diario Uno, Jan. 30; Diario Uno, BBC News, Jan. 29)

One surprising outcome of the election is the strong showing by the Agrarian Popular Front of Peru (FREPAP), party of a heretofore obscure evangelical sect known as the Israelites of the New Universal Pact, or simply Los Israelitas. Displaying a millennial zeal, sect members dress in flowing biblical robes, and have come to sudden prominence. FREPAP appears to have won 12 congressional seats, tying them with Popular Force as the fourth-largest bloc in the body. (The Guardian, Jan. 30; Diario Uno, Japan Times, Jan. 29)

Photo: Wayka