National Police fired on protesters occupying the site of the Conga gold mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on May 28, leaving one wounded in the leg and abdomen. Police, including elite troops from the Special Operations Divsion (DINOES), opened fire as some 1,500 campesinos were marching on El Perol laguna, to establish an encampement there. The Yanacocha mining company recently announced that it will begin pumping El Perol to divert the water into a reservoir and permit mining on the site—despite the fact that the project is officially suspended. A nearby reservoir dubbed Chaillhuagón has already been built, the company announced; the original laguna of that name is slated to become a pit-mine if the project moves ahead. The company says the new reservoirs will be made available for use by local residents, but Cajamarca's Unitary Struggle Command (CUL), which is coordinating the protests, pledges to resist any damage to the lagunas. (La Republica, Servindi, Servindi, CAOI, May 28; La Republica, May 23)
On May 7, thousands filled the streets of Lima, as notables and activists from across the spectrum of Peru's political left joined the funeral march for Javier Diez Canseco, longtime leader of the progressive bloc in the country's Congress and veteran of generations of struggle, who died of a sudden cancer three days before at the age of 65. Three rallies were held as the procession made its way through the capital's central district, each swelling the ranks of the mourners: congressional deputies at Plaza Bolívar, outside the Congress building; popular organizations at Plaza Dos de Mayo, overlooked by the offices of the CGTP labor federation; and leftist political parties at Plaza Bolognesi. Many expressed a sense that Peru's progressive forces have been left adrift without their most respected figure.
The local anti-drug Fiscal (prosecutor) in Chachapoyas province, Amazonas region, has opened an investigation into 25 suspected of running an "opium mafia" within the security services. Among the 25 are six members of the National Police, a provincial prosecutor, and a pilot contracted by the DEA. The group is accused of overseeing the commercialization of poppy crops in Rodríguez de Mendoza province, a remote high jungle area of Amazonas. The pilot, whose name has not been released, worked for a local company used by the DEA. Opium production has boomed in Amazonas region over the past five years, and authorities say morphine laboratories have been established in the jungle. (La Republica, RPP, Aeronoticias, May 19)
A parliamentary Mega-Commission investigating corruption in the former administration of Álan García has shocked Peru with its findings that some 5,500 pardons and commutations were granted under his presidency—including to 3,207 convicted on drug trafficking charges, at least 400 in high-volume cases. More than 800 of these are said to have returned to crime and are now fugitives. Mega-Commission president Sergio Tejada has named Miguel Facundo Chinguel, head of García's Presidential Pardons Commission, as responsible in the fracas. But Mega-Commission member Carlos Tubino has called for García himself to testify. Former special anti-corruption prosecutor José Ugaz, who opened the first investigation into the "narco-pardons," likewise says that the probe must reach "the highest levels" of the former administration. In March, a bomb was found under his car. (La Republica, May 31; Andina, May 30; RPP, May 12; Correo, March 9)
Peru's coca-producing Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Shining Path remains active, has seen growing protests over militarization and abuses by the security forces. On May 21, Fedia Castro, mayor of La Convención province (Cusco region), led a "March for Peace and Dignity" at the provincial seat of Quillabamba, to demand justice in a recent incident that left nine local residents wounded by army gunfire—including four women and a one-year-old infant. In the May 6 incident at Kepashiato village, army troops opened fire on a combi (commercial minibus) filled with local campesinos. The army says gunfire first came from the combi, and that a G3 assault rifle was later found on board. The passengers—including the wounded driver and owner of the vehicle, Rómulo Almirón Fuentes—deny that any firearm was found, challenging the army to produce it. They are also demanding compensation, including for damage to the combi. (Enlace Nacional, May 21; RPP, May 9; El Comercio, May 6)
The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.
World War 4 Report editor and chief blogger Bill Weinberg will be in Peru on assignment for the next weeks. The Daily Report will be updated as time and logistics allow, including on-the-scene reports from indigenous and campesino struggles for land and water in the Andean sierras. So please be patient with our slower pace of activity, and continue to check in on us. Daily updates and our weekly e-mailing of headlines will resume the last week of May. To sign up for the e-mail list (just one mailing a week, and your address will be kept in the strictest confidence), please be in touch.
Some 400 campesino protesters at the site of the Conga mining project in Peru's Cajamarca region on April 11 stormed the 200-strong lines of the National Police Special Forces Division (DINOES), to occupy the area around El Perol lake, where they vandalized property, putting pipes and other equipment to the torch. The Yanacocha mining company evacuated its personnel and removed its machinery from the site. About 150 protesters continued to occupy the property, although Yanacocha said the next day that they had all been evicted. Comuneros from the provinces of Celendín and Bambamarca led the action, pressing demands that Yanacocha halt all operations at the site.