Peru: police fire on protesters in Cajamarca

An “indefinite” paro (civil strike) was initiated in Cajamarca, Peru, on May 31 to oppose the pending mega-scale Conga gold mine, with thousands-strong marches held in the regional capital. Hundreds of National Police troops were mobilized to the streets, and on June 1 a new march was met with a police charge and even fired shots. The violence broke out when police in full riot gear attempted to clear an open-air kitchen that a group of women had established on a traffic island in one of the city’s main thoroughfares to feed the protesters. Although the incident won little media attention, video coverage posted on YouTube appears to show two shots being fired, followed by a woman crying out and collapsing on the pavement. The sparse media coverage did not indicate anyone was actually hit by bullets, and police assaulted the cameraman immediately after the shots, cutting short the film. The incident comes days after four protesters were shot by police in a similar conflict over a mineral project in Cuzco region. (Radio Nacional, June 1)

Employees of the Yanacocha mining company and other supporters of the Conga proposal held their first mass march in favor of the mega-project on May 29. Thousands reportedly turned out for the march for “peace, development and investment” led by Cajamarca’s former mayor Luís Guerrero and organized by a new coalition called “Colectivo por Cajamarca.” The effort was reportedly bankrolled by Jorge Vergara, head of the Cajamarca Chamber of Commerce. Local press reports noted that Vergara was recently fined by the Regional Directorate of Labor and Employment Promotion (DRTPE) for sub-standard working conditions at a for-profit clinic he operates. (Reuters, El Mercurio, Cajamarca, May 29)

In response to the violence, José León Rivera, a leading national lawmaker from neighboring La Libertad region and former agriculture minister under President Alejandro Toledo, called on authorities in Lima to declare a state of emergency in Cajamarca as they have in Espinar, Cuzco. He potrayed the unrest in Cajamarca as a subversive campaign by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez and his local supporters. (RPP, June 1)

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

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