On July 6, in a silent mass demonstration that filled the central plaza of Celendín town, last rites were held for three of the five campesinos killed in protests against the Conga mine project in Peru’s northern region of Cajamarca last week. The caskets, draped with banners reading “CONGA NO VA,” were carried in a motorcade through villages in the region, where gathered crowds paid their respects. The flags at the offices of the regional government were flown at half mast. Cajamarca remains under an indefiniteparo, or civil strike, launched May 31 to demand an end to the Conga project. (AQP Soluciones, July 7; Noticiera Bambamarquino, July 6)
Church called in to dialogue
A team of clergy led by Trujillo Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos arrived in Cajamarca to initiate a dialogue on the conflict on July 9. The team met with regional president Gregorio Santos and struggle leaders Idelso Hernández (representing Cajamarca province), Milton Sánchez (Celendín) and Edy Benavides (Bambamarca). Leaders Marco Arana and Wilfredo Saavedra apparently did not attend. In an interview with Canal N TV, Prime Minister Oscar Valdes lectured: “What Mr. Santos must understand is what is best for Peru. This is what the facilitators have to tell him.” (La Republica, Platts, July 9)
OAS rights body expresses concern
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish) issued a statement July 6 expressing its concern over the situation in Cajamarca, and urging Peru’s government to guarantee the lives and security of protesters there. Calling on the security forces to observe international norms on the use of force, the statement also appealed to protesters to enter into a dialogue. (CIDH, July 6)
More evidence of disappearing waters
Days before last week’s violence, Yanacocha, the company that seeks to develop the Conga mine and already runs the giant Yanacocha mine in the region, announced the construction of of four new reservoirs to protect the water resources of the zones under exploitation. But residents report that the San José reservoir in Baños del Inca district, built by the company for community use five years ago with a capacity of 6 million cubic meters of water, has been dry since the end of last year. The region’s legislative deputy Jorge Rimarachín has publicly denounced the situation, and warned that this could be the fate of the new reservoirs as well. Yanacocha’s director for environmental and social responsibility Luis Campos Aboado said the reservoir was dry due to maintenance work. (La Republica, July 6)
Peru: national solidarity builds with Cajamarca struggle
As the giant Mother Earth flag from Cajamarca arrived in Peru’s capital of Lima on July 12, a demonstration of some 1,000 construction workers with the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP) marched in solidarity with the struggle against the Conga gold mine project—as well their own demands of better pay and working conditions. In reference to the protesters killed in Cajamarca, marchers carried signs reading “¡Ni un muerto más, Sr. Humala!” (Not one more death, Mr. [President Ollanta] Humala!). The demonstration was addressed by lawmakers Rosa Mavila, Javier Diez Canseco, Jorge Rimarachín and Lima council member Marissa Glave. After the rally in Lima’s Plaza San Martín, the moment there to the liberator José de San Martín was spray-painted with graffiti against the Conga project. The CGTP said this was done by young students, not unionists, and a volunteer crew of workers scrubbed the statue clean. The rally saw a brief clash between National Police in full riot gear and student protesters.
Hundreds of CGTP unionists and local campesinos also marched in the southern city of Puno to oppose the Conga project, and a 24-hour paro (strike) was declared there. On the previous day, a rally was held in Trujillo, the first stop on the Mother Earth flag’s tour of Peru. (Servindi, July 13; Reuters, El Comercio, Celendín Libre, Pachamama Radio, Pachamama Radio, Servindi, July 12)
In Cajamarca, where a state of emergency remains in force in three provinces (Cajamarca, Hualgayoc and Celendín), an indefiniteparo continues—now most universally observed in the towns of Bambamarca (provincial seat of Hualgayoc) and Celendín, where five protesters were killed by the National Police last week. Businesses were closed, and residents held marches in defiance of the state of emergency, with National Police looking on.
In Cajamarca city, a large march was held in the Plaza de Armas in defiance of the state of emergency, followed by a protest Catholic mass at the church of San Francisco that overlooks the square. National Police troops surrounded the plaza, but did not interfere. The protest mass was presided over by Father Francisco Centurión and attended by regional president Gregorio Santos, the church’s former priest and now protest leader Marco Arana, local CGTP leader Carmela Sifuentes, local teachers’ union SUTEP leader Noemí López Chegne, and Cajamarca Defense Front president Idelso Hernández. (Caballero Verde, Panamericano, July 12)