Peru: Conga mine opponents threatened

On Dec. 15 in the city of Cajamarca, Peru, unknown persons broke into the house of attorney Mirtha Vásquez, a director of the NGO Grufides, a leading voice in the struggle against the controversial Conga mine project. One day earlier, the truck of Sergio Sánchez, a member of the Grufides team, was vandalized; five weeks earlier, the home of another Grufides activist, Ivett Sánchez, was similarly broken into. The incidents follow a report in Revista Caretas after Arana was assaulted by police during protests in July that the National Police had dispatched units of the Intelligence Directorate (DIRIN) to tail him. (GRUFIDES, Dec. 17)

The Environmental Defense Front of Cajamarca on Dec. 13 held a rally in the city’s Plazuela Bolognesi to oppose the “terrorismo minero-militar” of the Yanacocha company that seeks to develop the Conga mine, protesting the continued presence of National Police troops at the concession bloc and the harassment of activists and journalists. (Servindi, Dec. 13)

In another cabient change, Peru’s labor minister José Villena resigned Dec. 9 amid an uproar over charges that he roughed up an airport worker as he rushed to catch a departing plane after arriving late at the airport in Arequipa Nov. 27. Airline Lan Peru employees said he stormed up to the counter demanding that his plane, already taxiing down the runway, be stopped—then hit one female employee and threatened to have others fired when they failed to comply. Villena later apologized, but denied hitting the employee. However, Peru’s media published a medical report that said the woman had a bruise on her forearm. Women’s groups, human rights organizations and public opinion raised an outcry for Villena to be fired. (AFP, Dec. 11)