The struggle against the planned Conga gold mine in Peru’s northern region of Cajamarca continues to gain ground, with formation of a “Unitary Struggle Command for the Northern Macroregion and Oriente,” coordinating popular movements in adjoining regions. A general strike throughout the Northern Macroregion (comprising the regions of Cajamarca, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura, Tumbes and Amazonas) and possibly beyond has been called for May 31. Local struggles are joining their demands to those of the mine opponents in Cajamarca. Farmers in the irrigation district (Usuarios de Riego) of the Valle Chancay in Lambayeque who oppose water-diversion projects that would benefit agribusiness have pledged their support for the strike, as have the rondas campesinas (peasant self-defense patrols) in Ayavaca, Piura region, who oppose the local operations of Río Blanco Copper.
The Ayavaca ronda said in a statement: “We are not going to permit our Cajamarquino brothers to have their rights trampled, and much less will we allow our own rights to be trampled as campesino communities and owners of our territories.” Local communities near the Conga mine site, high in the Andes, again report a beefed-up presence in the remote area of DINOES troops—the elite National Police special operations division. (Celendin Libre, May 25; Celendin Libre, May 24; Caballero Verde, May 22; Servindi, Sept. 11, 2011)
Cajamarca regional president Gregorio Santos, a leading opponent of the Conga project, has announced that he plans to participate in Peru’s 2016 presidential election, on a platform of revising Peru’s constitution to allow greater public oversight of resource extraction projects, and changing the country’s current economic model predicated on such projects. He stopped just short of saying he would run himself, emphasizing that “We are not defining candidacies.” Instead, he said: “We are convening a call to have an electoral political front for 2016 of the popular sector, of the left sector, to debate with the right and the defenders of neoliberalism, and assure that the people have options to decide in the next periods.” (Dow Jones, May 21; RPP, May 19)
See our last post on struggles for water and minerals in Peru.