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Peru: Residents of Puno Resume Protests

Once again the inhabitants of the Puno region have taken to the streets in protests, this time against the contamination caused by the mining of minerals.

Right now, not only strikes, marches and roadblocks [es] are taking place, but also violent confrontations [es] that have left 6 people dead [es] and police vanished during an attempt by the protesters to seize the Inca Manco Cápac Airport in Juliaca [es].  (They also attempted to take over one of the Police stations in Azángaro).

Despite recent offers from the Central government to cancel the early concession of the hydro-electric project in Inambari [es], and the last minute signing of joint supreme decisions and urgent decrees [es] aimed at appeasing the highly strung attitudes of the people of Puno, the protests in Puno did not stop, but simply came to a pause.

Confrontations at the Juliaca airport. Photo: Enlace Nacional.

Confrontations at the Juliaca airport. Photo: Enlace Nacional.

Social conflicts

Also, in Puno there are many social conflicts that should have been resolved for some time now, between the population and the government as well as the interests of other communities.

These conflicts include issues diverse and controversial, like the huge mine represented by international companies and promoted by the central government; small manual mining, a source of work for thousands of residents of Puno that has become a predator to the environment; and the claims of the countryside residents, who reject any kind of mining activities or extraction industry for fear of the possible contamination of the environment as perceived from their lifestyle based on agriculture.

The situation is further complicated by the local authorities who, with a few exceptions [es], adhere to the central government's propositions and don't empathise with the protests of the residents.

The crisis exploded anew on June 24 [es] (the day that Peru celebrates Campesino Day or “the day of the peasant”), when residents of the peasant communities of Azángaro took the streets of Juliaca [es] to demand that something be done to recuperate the ecosystem of the Ramis River [es], that has been seriously affected by informal mining [es].

Javier Torres Seoane [es] pens a tight summary of this recent conflict, disassociating it with the protests of the Aymara a few weeks ago:

La protesta en Juliaca era contra la contaminación del Rio Ramis, producto de la minería informal. No tenía nada que ver con la agenda de los pobladores aymaras, ni de otras provincias de Puno contra las concesiones mineras. En el 2007 se creo una comisión multisectorial para atender el tema y como de costumbre no se hizo absolutamente nada…

The Juliaca protests were against the contamination of the Ramis River, caused by informal mining. It had nothing to do with the agenda of the Aymara population, or any of the other provinces of Puno against mining concessions. In 2007 a multisector commission was founded to address this issue and as usual, it resulted in absolutely nothing…

Yasmin Urrego [es] comments on Facebook:

Increible :”El 70% del territorio de Puno está concesionado. Todas estas concesiones han sido autorizadas de forma inconsulta”. Provincia de Melgar, existen 423 concesiones; Melgar es la capital ganadera del Perú y capital mundial de la alpaca. En Melgar se realizan 2 ferias nacionales, 6 ferias regionales y 80 ferias locales. Eso ha hecho que la población reaccione y proteste.

Incredible: ” 70% of Puno territory is concessioned. All these concessions have been authorized in an insulting manner”. The Melgar Provinces contains 423 concessions; Melgar is the capital earner of Peru and the world capital of the alpaca. In Melgar, 2 national fairs take place, 6 regional ones and 80 local ones. This has made the population resist and protest.

The parish priest of Juilaca and Human Rights Activist, Luis Zambrano, declared in an interview in the blog Debatik [es]:

Todos los puneños no están en contra de la minería. De hecho hay la formal y la informal. Los de la minería informal, que son varios miles, procedentes sobre todo de Juliaca, como, por ejemplo, en la Rinconada, buscan el oro incansablemente y contaminan terriblemente los ríos y, al final, el lago Titicaca . Los de la formal, aunque tienen el permiso del gobierno central, también contaminan los ríos. Quienes se oponen a la minería no lo hacen por capricho, sino por defender su vida (nuestra vida) y la de la “Pachamama”.

Not everyone in Puno is opposed to mining. There is in fact formal and informal mining. Those who practice informal mining, of whom there are thousands, mainly from Juliaca, like, for example, in the Rinconada, looking tirelessly for gold and terribly contaminating the rivers and, finally, the Titicaca. Those who practice fromal mining, although they have permission from the government, also contaminate rivers. Those opposed to mining don't do so because they feel like it, but to defend their lives (our lives) and that of the “Panchamama”.

As such, the government has declared three days of official mourning [es], from June 25.

The issue has been well discussed on social networks, as seen for example in these tweets, which are only some among hundreds that have flooded Twitter in Peru.

Aldo Santos (@santoslado) clarifies:

Las protestas por la contaminación de minería ilegal al #RioRamis tienen + d 12 años ¿cuántos gobiernos pasaron y qué hicieron? #Juliaca

The protests for the contamination of illegal mining in Ramos River have continued for >12 years How many governments passed and what have they done?

Rolando Alles (@allesnew) observes:

Ayer RMP [Rosa María Palacios, periodista de TV] leía carta d puneños indignados c/la protesta. Este video muestra lo contrario, mayoría sintoniza c/la protesta

Yesterday [Rosa Maria Palacios, TV journalist] read a letter from the people of Puno outraged with the protest. This video shows the contrary, the majority empathises with the protest

Carlos Andrade (@AndradePareja) comments:

En el día del campesino nace el Juliacazo con 6 muertos a la fecha, Region Puno de luto por sus caidos

On Campesino Day the Juilacazo came into being with 6 deaths on that date, the Puno Region mourning for the fallen

Carlos Huamán Tola (@Manicoinca) asks of the presidential vacancy:

En mi opinión, creo que no hay que esperar al 28 de julio para pedirle a Alan García que entregue el mando.

In my opinion, I believe that one shouldn't have to wait for the 28th to ask Alan Garcia to give the command.

Others seem to suggest the presence of the elected president Ollanta Humala in the zone, such as journalist Milagros Leiva (@MilagrosLeivaG):

@elestigmadecain De acuerdo contigo, pero también existe un líder natural en esa zona y se llama Ollanta Humala. No lo olvides…

@elestigmadecain I agree with you, but also, there is natural leader in the zone named Ollanta Humala, don't forget…

Before these proposals, others comments, like @chilkano:

Gente q exige q Humala vaya a Puno y no dice nada de Alan y Cipriani.

People who demand that Humala come aren't saying anything about Alan or Cipriani.

Ricardo Marapi (@ricardomarapi) laments:

Una masacre como la ocurrida en Juliaca, en otro país causaría miles protestando en las calles y la salida de un presidente. Acá #aguatibia

A massacre has occurred at Juliaca, in another country that would cause thousands of protests in the streets and the president to step down. Here #aguatibia

Others on the other hand think that the government ought to be harsh, like JesusCubaValladares [es]:

Lamentablemente no puedo ser ajeno a lo que esta pasando en Puno. A ver analizando friamente: cuando carajo la gente de las provincias mas necesitadas del Perú van a dejar de joder y que entiendan de una vez que sin inversión privada no van a progresar. IGNORANTES!!!!

Sadly I can't be apathetic about what is happening in Puno. Coldly and analytically: when the hell are the people of key provinces in Peru going to stop kidding themselves and understand from the get go that without private inversion we will not progress. Idiots!!!!

Although the new government will try to resolve many of these problems, no doubt that President elect Ollanta Humala will face many great social and political challenges in this region, in which he received that largest number of votes. In the words of investigative reporter Raúl Wiener [es]:

El nuevo presidente debiera leer muy claramente el mensaje. Las provincias que también han ganado las elecciones y que han puesto a quien consideran su presidente en Palacio de Gobierno en Lima, ya no se van a quedar en sus lugares esperando la llegada de las comisiones llamadas de “alto nivel” para que vengan a discutir sobre sus problemas…

The new president ought to read this message very carefully. The provinces that also won the elections and have put who they consider to be their President in the Governmental Palace in Lima, are not going to stay in place waiting for commissions dubbed “high priority” to come to discuss their problems…
Juan Arellano (@cyberjuan), collaborated in the selection of the tweets for this post.


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