Peru: new violence in Cajamarca anti-mining struggle

One protester was gravely hurt with a head injury as National Police attacked a demonstration against the planned Conga gold mine project in Peru’s northern city of Cajamarca June 21. Seven were arrested as police unleashed tear gas, and protesters responded with sticks and hurled rocks. Authorities said five police officers were also injured in the confrontation in the city’s Plaza Bolognes—which came as Cajamarca’s regional president Gregorio Santos was leading a rally against the mine in the city’s Plaza de Armas, just a few blocks away. (El Comercio, June 21) When two rights attorneys—Genoveva GĂłmez of the DefensorĂ­a del Pueblo (human rights ombudsman) and Amparo Abando of the National Human Rights Coordinator— entered at city’s National Police headquarters to inquire after the seven detained, they were themselves attacked by police, both suffering bruises. (Celendin Libre, June 22)

Santos told the rally in the Plaza de Armas he was still waiting for a response from President Ollanta Humala on a proposal to dialogue over the Conga question. Symbolically addressing Humala, he said: “President, you said the protesters should offer proposals, and we still have the intention of telling you ours.” The following day, Humala responded to reporters that he had in fact received a letter from Santos, but that rather than offering a dialogue it only “expounded the reasons for his intransigence.” (La Republica, June 22)

Cajamarca activists are also outraged that national authorities threatened to arrest pregnant women who marched in the city on June 19 to drive home the toxic threat to the the next generation from the mine’s pollution of region’s water. Ana Jara, Peru’s minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations, said pregnant protesters would be putting their unborn at risk by attending the rally, and accused organizers of using pregnant women as shields to prevent police from breaking up the protests. (Reuters, June 20)

On June 22, Newmont Mining of Colorado announced that it had accepted the findings of an “expert review” called by President Humala to mitigate the impacts of the Conga project.”We have ratified our decision to implement the recommendations international auditors made to the environmental impact study for the Conga project,” Newmont’s head of South America operations, Carlos Santa Cruz, said in a statement. “We share the government’s call for dialogue, for the vast majority of civil society in Peru.” (Reuters, June 22)

Peru’s national chamber of commerce, CONFIEP, hailed Newmont’s announcement, saying it conforms with the “new mining” proposal just then being advanced by Humala at the UN environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro. CONFIEP president Humberto Speziani said: “This decision reveals the commitment, not only of Newmont, but of the mining companies in general, to the new mining proposed by the government for the correct use of natural resources with respect to the environment and social responsibility with the communities.” (La Republica, 24 Horas, June 22)

The Cajamarca protesters, who launched an indefinite civil strike against the mine project on May 31, have already rejected the proposals of the “expert review.”

See our last posts on Peru and regional struggles over minerals and water.

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