Three people were killed—including a youth of 17 years—when security forces fired on protesters July 3 in the town of Celendín, in Peru’s northern region of Cajamarca. As hundreds of protesters marched through town, a group attacked the provincial government building, breaking windows.* A mixed force of some 500 soldiers and National Police troops attacked the group with tear-gas, and then opened fire. In addition to the three dead, some 20 were wounded. Authorities said five soldiers and two police were injured in the clash. Protest organizers, who oppose the planned Conga gold mine project, speculated that the attack on the government building was the work of agents provocateurs. Peru’s Justice Minister Juan Jiménez announced that a state of emergency has been declared in the provinces of Celendín, Hualgayoc and Cajamarca, suspending basic civil rights. In an unusual move, the 16 detained were taken out of Cajamarca, to Chiclayo in Lambayeque region. (Celendín Libre, La Republica, RPP, Peru21, Peru.com, TeleSUR, Sociedad Política blog, La Mula via Terra.com, July 3)
Cajamarca’s regional president Gregorio Santos placed the blame for the deaths squarely on President Ollanta Humala. “Those principally responsible are President Humala and his cabinet… Their hands are stained with blood.” He said the deaths are “the cost for [Humala] not complying” with the promises made on the campaign trail last year—referring to his pledge to halt the Conga project. Santos added that US-based Newmont Mining, which hopes to develop the Conga mine, “should be expelled form the country.” Days earlier, protest leader Marco Arana had warned, “If they impose Conga, there will be a bloodbath.” (Peru.com, Trome, Sociedad Política, July 3; Correo, Peru.com, june 26)
* The municipal government of Celendín is one of the few in the region that support the Conga project.