In a new mobilization on the contested Conga mine site in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, hundreds of local campesinos on Jan. 16 again marched to the shores of the alpine lakes that would be destroyed by the project. National daily La Republica, citing unnamed sources, said the marchers pushed past security guards, and caused "disturbances" and "material damage" to equipment of the Yanacocha mining company. One protester was reported arrested by National Police troops. However, Cajamarca-baed popular organization Tierra y Libertad in a statement on Facebook said only that some 2,000 ronderos (members of the peasant self-defense patrols) from the local provinces of Bambamarca and Celendín marched on the site, taking a six-hour roundabout way through mountain paths to avoid the roadblocks "illegally maintained" by National Police and Yanacocha security.
The regional governor of Cajamarca, Ever Hernández, defended the right of protesters to mobilize, and said he had no power to prohibit or interfere with it. But he added that his administration would cooperate with the National Police to protect public and private property. (RPP, Jan. 15) Days earlier, he expressed support for President Ollanta Humala's plans for an expansion of mineral development in Cajamarca, charging that the region experienced negative economic growth last year. (America Economia, Dec. 30)
However, this was immediately refuted by Cajamarca's left-wing regional president, Gregorio Santos, who said, "There is no economic recession in Cajamarca." (RPP, Jan. 3) The regional president is an elected position, while governors are appointed by the national executive to coordinate security concerns. Santos, an outspoken opponent of the Conga project, recently launched a Social Affirmation Movement (MAS), as a platform to oppose President Humala from the left on the national stage. (RPP, Jan. 6)
Narco card against Cajamarca ecological struggle —again
Spurious attempts to tar the campesino movement in Cajamarca with drug-trafficking ties are once again making news in Peru. Vladimiro Huaroc, head of the National Dialogue Office for social conflicts, in a Jan. 13 interview with La Republica revived the claim that Cajamarca is emerged as a key "drug corridor," adding that there is a "very strange mix between rondas and the narco-traffic" in the region, and that it is necessary to "re-establish rule of law." The Cajamarca Regional Defense Front and the provinicial ronda federations for Hualgayoc, Celendín and Cajamarca declared Huaroc persona non grata in their territories in response to the claims. (Servindi, Jan. 17)