from Weekly News Update on the Americas
HUALLAGA VALLEY: COCALEROS CLASH WITH COPS
On May 29 in Tocache province, in the Huallaga valley of San Martin in north central Peru, at least 3,500 campesino coca growers (cocaleros) armed with sticks surrounded a group of 230 police agents charged with carrying out coca leaf eradication operations. According to police, the resulting clash left 17 agents hurt–one by a bullet, the rest by beatings. Twenty cocaleros were injured; Tocache mayor Nancy Zagerra said three of them are in serious condition with bullet wounds. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 31 from DPA)
The 230 anti-drug police agents had arrived in the area on May 26, along with 50 workers from the Control and Reduction of Coca Crops in the Alto Huallaga (CORAH) project. On May 28, the anti-drug forces set up camp in the village of 5 de Diciembre, where according to cocalero leader Nancy Obregon they forced the campesinos from their homes and destroyed their crops, even after the campesinos showed them documents from the state-run National Coca Company (ENACO) demonstrating that the crops were legal. “They said those [documents] were no good and they threw everyone out. The people have had to sleep outside,” said Obregon Outraged at the incident, Obregon organized nearly 4,000 cocaleros to confront the agents at their camp the next day. (La Republica, Lima, May 30)
On May 31 a representative of the Office of the Defender of the People, Manlio Alvarez Soto, traveled to Tocache from Tingo Maria, in neighboring Huanuco region, to meet with the cocaleros and gather information about the conflict. Alvarez also visited two of the wounded cocaleros in the Tingo Maria hospital, where they were taken for treatment. [LR 6/1/05] On June 3, some 6,000 cocaleros from Monzon and Alto Huallaga marched in Tingo Maria in support of the Tocache cocaleros. (LR, May 6) Obregon said the cocaleros will start an open-ended strike on June 27. (LR, May 30)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 5
CUSCO: RESIDENTS SEIZE MINE
On May 24, some 2,000 residents of Espinar province in the southern Peruvian region of Cusco seized a copper mining camp run by the British-Australian corporation BHP Billiton-Tintaya. The protesters looted and burned camp facilities, and police used tear gas to try to remove them; dozens of people were injured. Residents are demanding that the mining company provide $20 million a year in funding for social programs in the region and that it take measures to improve infrastructure and protect the environment. BHP Billiton-Tintaya is the third largest copper mine in Peru, producing 80,000 tons a year, 12.1% of national production.
As the number of residents surrounding the camp swelled to 4,000 on May 25, BHP Billiton-Tintaya pulled its personnel out and shut down operations at the camp. The same day, the protesters beat the mayor of Espinar when he asked them to dialogue with the mining company.
On May 26, a government delegation headed by Energy and Mines deputy minister Romulo Mucho arrived to negotiate with the protesters, who now numbered some 6,000 and were gathered in the plaza in Yauri, the provincial capital of Espinar. The crowd was furious to see that the Energy and Mines minister had not come with the delegation, but eventually agreed to a dialogue.
The company is not participating, saying it will not negotiate under pressure, and that it will not contribute more than what it agreed to in an 2003 contract: 3% of utilities, with a minimum payment set at $1.5 million a year. In the first year of the contract the company paid $2 million. (LJ, May 25 from Reuters; Reuters May 26)
Police in Yauri say that early on May 26 they found pamphlets of the Maoist rebel group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) scattered in the streets, calling on residents to “rid our land of the traitor dogs and those miserable gringos who loot our resources.” The news led some media to suggest that the Espinar protests were organized by “subversives,” but legislator Jose Taco, a member of the government negotiating team, rejected the theory. “I’m from the zone, I know the people, and I deny the subversive character, they’re not criminals, [though] there are groups which take advantage,” he said.
On May 27, after a 12-hour meeting with the government delegation, Espinar residents agreed to suspend their protests while local leaders consult with their bases about whether or not to accept a June 2 meeting to renew dialogue with the company. BHP Billiton-Tintaya has not yet agreed to the dialogue, and says it will keep its operations shut down for security reasons. Economy minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told the media on May 26 that the company will leave Peru if the protests are not resolved quickly. (Reuters, May 26, 27)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29
AYACUCHO TO AMAZONIA: CAMPESINOS STRIKE
On May 23, thousands of campesinos in seven Peruvian regions began blocking highways in an agrarian strike to demand fair prices for their produce, protest unfair competition from imports and reject a free trade treaty being negotiated with the US, Ecuador and Colombia which they say will exacerbate their current crisis. In addition, the campesinos were demanding that sales tax be reduced from 19% to 4% for the agricultural sector, and that the state agrarian bank, Agrobanco, open up branches in rural areas to grant low-interest credits to campesinos. The strikers mainly produce rice, cotton and bananas in Peru’s northern regions, and potatoes in the south.
The protest was initially called as a 48-hour strike in Tumbes, Piura, Cajamarca, Loreto and Ayacucho departments, and as an open-ended strike in Lambayeque and San Martin. In Tumbes, on the northern coast bordering Ecuador, some 5,000 rice and banana producers blocked several kilometers of the Panamerican highway. In the northern coastal city of Chiclayo, in Lambayeque, police arrested some 20 people who were watching campesinos blockade the Panamerican highway. Strike actions also took place in Piura, also on the northern coast, and in Cajamarca, just inland in the northern Andes.
Further east, on the edge of the Peruvian Amazon, more than 10,000 rice growers from San Martin and Loreto departments blocked the road linking the towns of Yurimaguas (Loreto) and Tarapoto (San Martin) and shut down activities in the zone. Campesino leader Luis Zuniga, president of the National Convention of Peruvian Farmers (CONVEAGRO), noted that Peruvian authorities had encouraged farmers to grow more rice, causing a production glut which has forced prices down.
In Ayacucho, in the south-central Andean highlands, more than 8,000 campesino potato growers began their strike on May 23 by occupying the offices of the Regional Department of Agriculture and blocking the main access highways into the city of Huamanga.
Agriculture Minister Manuel Manrique said late on May 23 that he had reached a pre-accord with the Ayacucho producers, and that they had agreed to lift their strike once negotiations with campesino representatives from the other regions were successful. Under the terms of the accord, the government agreed to purchase 4,100 tons of potatoes from the Ayacucho producers. (Telam, AP, May 23, 24; Prensa Latina, May 24; ANSA, May 23; La Jornada, Mexico, May 26) The strikes ended May 26 after the government signed an accord with the northern producers, in which it pledged to buy this year’s entire crop of rice in order to stabilize prices. (LJ, May 27 from DPA)
President Alejandro Toledo left Peru on May 24 to begin a 17-day trip in which he is to visit China, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the Occupied Territories. Manrique, the agriculture minister, was also scheduled to take part in the trip. (AP, May 24)
The agrarian strike came in a conflictive week in Peru. On May 24, some 7,000 nurses employed by the state-run Social Security agency began an open-ended national strike to demand a wage increase. In the northern city of Trujillo, state workers burned tires and threw paint at offices of the Chilean airline Lan-Peru in a protest to demand a series of labor laws. On May 23, Aymara indigenous residents of the Uros islands in Lake Titicaca began a 48-hour strike to demand that the National Institute of Natural Resources stop barring them from using the lake’s flora and fauna. On May 24, the Aymara announced that their strike would be open-ended. (LJ, May 26 from DPA, AFP, Reuters; AP, May 24)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 29
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #107
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution