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Peru: Police Officers Killed in Pómac Forest Reserve

On January 20, three police officers [es] were killed by peasants who were illegally occupying lands in the Pómac Forest Reserve in the Lambayeque region of Peru. The police were carrying out a court order to remove hundreds of families from these lands, when they were attacked by some of the peasants firing rifles. News of the incident made headlines, especially the fact that the land occupiers were armed, some say with assault rifles. Some called for the Chief of Police and the Minister of the Interior to resign because there were reports of the resistance that the police officers would face, and despite that they still sent them unarmed [es]. The incident was also a topic of discussion by Peruvian bloggers.

Silvio Rendon of Lapicero Digital [es] condemns the incident:

El caso de Pómac es totalmente condenable. Han sido disparos a matar, no muy diferentes a los disparos a matar durante el paro agrario del año pasado. Los policías deben saber que la sociedad está con ellos, que se condena los asesinatos de sus compañeros con la misma dureza con que se condenó el asesinato de los campesinos. … La primera reacción de los policías al ver a sus compañeros muertos fue reclamar por la defensa de sus derechos humanos.

They (the police) were shot at in order to kill them, not any different than what happened during the agricultural strike last year. The police ought to know that society is on their side, that the murder of their colleagues is condemned as harshly as when peasants are killed… The first reaction of the policemen upon seeing their dead colleagues was to call for the defense of human rights.

Eduardo Villanueva of Casi Un Blog Mk.II [es] insists that the police actions were improvised and thinks that the Interior Minister's explanations were not enough:

Las denuncias de parte de los policías sobre falta de recursos, hasta el punto de no estar correctamente alimentados, solo complican más el panorama. La responsabilidad de la cadena de mando es muy grande y el ministro debe dar la cara y asumir responsabilidades. No se trata de exigir renuncias por sí mismas, pero si las explicaciones no son convincentes, el sr. Hernani debe volver a su plácido retiro.

The complaints from the police regarding the lack of resources, even to the point of not being properly fed [es], only complicate the panorama even more. The responsibility of the chain of command is large and the Minister (of the Interior) must show his face and take responsibility. It doesn't have to do with calling for resignations just for the sake of calling for it, but if the explanations are not convincing, then Mr. Hernani (the Interior Minister) should return to his peaceful retirement.

Suana Villarán says that the country doesn't need heroes, and it appears that the government doesn't care about the lives of the police [es]. She also adds that other means should be used to solve the conflict:

Existen escenarios de riesgo muy graves y la conflictividad en nuestro país se incrementa día a día. Es una responsabilidad política y sectorial y no policial el prevenir los conflictos, identificar su naturaleza, a los actores , sus demandas y expectativas y actuar con madurez en los acuerdos.

There are very serious and high-risk scenarios, and the number of conflicts in our country increases each day. It is a political and sectorial responsibility, and not a police responsibility to prevent conflicts, identify the type of conflict, the actors, their demands, and expectations, and act with responsibility to come to agreement.

Mr. T of Querido Pueblo Peruano [es] analyzes the situation and sees land invasions as a reoccurring problem in the country:

Un terreno que sea propiedad, digamos, del ejército o de la policía. Viene un grupo de pobrecitos con su banderita del Perú y sus esteritas, se plantan y luego comienzan a gritar: “¡Agua y desague, agua y desague!”. Porque como son pobrecitos el Estado se tiene que apiadar de ellos y darles terreno mientras que algunos sociólogos salen a afirmar: ¡Ahí está el Capitalismo emergente! ¡Ahí está la nueva burguesía que llegó en los años 50 para quedarse … El problema es que estos señores invasores NO SON POBRECITOS, de hecho son una red de tráfico de tierras muy bien estructurada. Un negocio especulativo que se vale de robarle tierras al Estado. A ver, supongamos que el Estado cede; entonces el metro cuadrado de tierra puede llegar a multiplicar por diez su precio si se logra el objetivo de instalar agua y desague. Esto no es una humilde invasión sino un anómico mecanismo de mercado que ha venido operando descontroladamente.

Let's say that there is land owned by the army or the police. A group of poor people with their Peruvian flag and their mats, sits down and later begins to yell “Water and drainage, water and drainage!” And since they are poor people from the State, one must take pity on them and give them land while some sociologists come out to say, “There is the emerging capitalism! There is the new bourgeoisie that arrived in the 1950s to stay… The problem with these invaders is that the are NOT POOR, in fact they are a well-structured network of land traffickers. A speculative business that tries to steal land from the State. Let's say that the State gives in, then the price of square meter of land can multiply by 10 if they achieve their goal of installing water and drainage. This is not a humble invasion, but an anomic market mechanism that has been operating out of control.

Finally, Javier Fernández of Javi270270 ¿Qué pasa? [es] is personally moved by the events and writes:

Es una verdadera lastima la muerte de los policías. El brutal video solo pude verlo una vez. Demasiado fuerte y es que he visto muchísimas películas con situaciones simuladas y, en este caso, se cumple que la realidad supera a la ficción. Decidí no escribir en el momento de rabia y frustración (que aun los tengo pues lamento profundamente este episodio).

The death of two police officers is a real shame. I could only watch the brutal video once. It was too strong and I have seen a lot of movies with simulated situations, and in this case it is true that truth is stronger than fiction. I decided not to write at the time out of anger and frustration (which I still have and for which I am sorry.)

Meanwhile, damages caused by almost seven years of occupation by the squatters are indeterminable, and presumably the damages made to some archaeological sites are irreparable. When it comes to the ecosystem, it will take some time for it to return to its previous condition. This is much related with the slowness of the judiciary system, as El Comercio reports,  not all the squatters have been cleared out yet [es].

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