Peru: Aymara Indigenous People Announce Resumption of Protests in Puno

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights.

After a temporary truce [es] to allow for presidential elections [es] to take place in the Puno region, the Aymara Indians in said region have announced that they will resume [es] their strike [es] indefinitely, with which they demand the cancellation of all mining concessions in Puno, because of the damage they cause [es] the ecosystem, and the contamination of rivers and the Titicaca Lake.

One can bear in mind that in recent days, around 15,000 Aymaras seized [es] the city of Puno, after which they incited violence [es] that paralised the Puno capital for days and left many tourists stranded [es].

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Ayamara peasants. Puno, Peru. (Photo by Enrique Molina)

The Puno region, quite remote from the capital, Lima, on the border with Brazil, is the second region in portion of hectares [es] granted for mining projects in Peru, according to scholar Jose de Echave.

The government has rejected the cancellation [es], but came to an agreement with the Aymara communities to suspend mining and petroleum concessions in Puno for 14 months in four provinces (Yunguyo, Chucuito, Callao, and Juli). However, these indigenous communities are also demanding a repeal [es] of the Decreto Supremo 082-2007-EM [es] (Supreme Decree 082-2007-EM), according to Walter Adurviri, [es] President of the Front for the Defense of Natural Resources in the Southern Zone of Puno.

Aduviri told the Puno newspaper Los Andes [es] that although he saw the victory of nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala [es] in a positive light, the Aymara would not content themselves with his promises, but would demand written agreements. Meanwhile, the president of the Regional Government of Puno, Mauricio Rodriguez, has requested that [es] president-elect Ollanta Humala intervene in this matter.

The Aymara and the Quechua, who will soon be joined by communities in others zones of Puno [es], demand that their right to prior consultation [es] be respected in the granting of mining and petroleum concessions, provided that these types of economic activities contaminate the environment and destroy the traditional way of life [es], a claim that the blogger Peruanista [es] captures here:

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Lake Titicaca, whose ecology will be affected by mines and petrol according to Aymara activists (Photo by Enrique Molina)

Los pueblos quechua y aymara de Puno no se oponen a la minería completamente, sino quieren ser incluidos en el proceso de otorgamiento de licencias, para definir dónde es conveniente extraer minerales para evitar contaminar las cuencas de sus ríos y que llegan al lago Titicaca. Este no es solamente el lago de agua dulce más grande de Sur América, sino es un símbolo sagrado de la cosmovisión andina. El problema es que el gobierno de Lima continua con su mentalidad racista de exclusión, otorgando licencias a empresas mineras –en su mayoría extranjeras- sin consultar a los pueblos originarios que viven en las regiones donde se ubican los yacimientos mineros.

The Quechua and Aymara communities of Puno are not completely opposed to mining, but want to be included in the granting process for licenses to determine the most appropriate zones to extract materials without contaminating the rivers and by extension the Titicaca Lake. This is not only the second largest fresh water lake in South America but is also a sacred symbol of  Andean cosmic vision. The problem with the government in Lima is that they continue with their racist mentality of exclusion, giving licenses to mining companies- the majority of which are foreign- without consulting the original inhabitants who live in the regions where minerals are sourced.

Other bloggers, like Rodolfo Ybarra [es], have complained that the government has attempted “divide and conquer” tactics:

Al parecer, el ejecutivo tuvo la idea de dividir a la delegación puneña. Mientras los congresistas Yonhy Lescano, Margarita Sucari y Susana Vilca, esperaban impacientemente la llegada de la comitiva puneña, la ministra Rosario Fernández inicio la conversación sólo con el presidente y los alcaldes, dejando de lado a los legisladores puneños.

Yonhy Lescano y Margarita Sucari, coincidieron que el ejecutivo no maneja la reunión de manera transparente.

It seems that the Executive thought to divide the Puno delegation. While congress members Yonhy Lescano, Margarita Sucari and Susana Vilca, patiently await the arrival of the committee of Puno, Minister Rosari Fernandez began the talk with just the president and the mayors, leaving the legislators of Puno by the wayside.

Yonhy Lescano and Margarita Sucari agree that the Executive doesn't manage the meeting with transparency.

Bloggers like Silvio Rendon [es] see these public protests as something positive:

El “puneñazo” (o “aymarazo”) marca el comienzo del fin de los abusos de las mineras, como el “arequipazo” marcó el fin de las privatizaciones prebendarias.

The “puneñazo” or aymarazo marks the beginning of the end of the abuse from mines, like the “arequipazo” marked the end of corrupt privatisations.

However, other netizens don't see this very clearly, as Cedres, (@Cedres), tweets:

Quién entiende a esta gente? #rabia RT @terrape: A pesar de triunfo nacionalista, aimaras vuelven al paro

Who can understand these people? #anger RT @terrape: Despite the nationalists’ victory, aymaras return to their strike

Martin Arcaya (@arcaya1) reiterates with this tweet:

Si tanto criticas a los comuneros aymaras anda a vivir alli con tu fuente de agua a punto de contaminarse, huevón!

If you want to criticise the Aymara people so much, go live with them and drink the water until you choke and poison yourself, Jack***!

John Rivas (@johnidem) tells congressman Johnny Lescano:

@yonhy_lescano Deberías estar en Puno conciliando el problema de los Aymaras.

@yonhy_lescano you ought to be in Puno dealing with the Aymara problem.

The indigenous inhabitants of Puno, one of Peru's regions with the highest incidence of illiteracy, malnutrition [es] and poverty, live mainly on agriculture, one of the forgotten sectors in all the country. In spite of this, they cultivate more than one thousand varieties of native potatoes and can boast the first [es] place in national production of this tuber.

Walter Aduviri, a leader the communities follow despite authorities questioning his authority [es], has announced that this strike will resume, although he doesn't exactly know how many communities will show up in total.

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights.

Photos courtesy of J. Enrique Molina.

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