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Peru: Farmers’ Strike in Andahuaylas

Tuesday, November 8, marked six days of a farmers’ strike protesting mining activity in the area in Andahuaylas, in the Apurímac region of Peru. On Thursday, November 3, the Water Junta de Usuarios (“Users’ Council”) of the Andahuaylas and Chincheros provinces announced [es] the beginning of an indefinite strike, demanding the removal of two copper processing plants in Huaraccopata and Tocctopata, and that emergency be declared for the basins, watersheds, springs and wetlands contaminated by mining activities.

Negotiation meetings between representatives of the Users’ Council (JUDRA) and the regional Apurímac government were held on Friday, November 4, regarding the issuance and enforcement of a resolution by the Regional Government, but there were no satisfactory results. Twitter user Angel Ccorisapra (@angelitucha) provides some details:

Angelitucha: Los representantes de JUDRA estan en pleno dialogo sobre el caso de la minería.

Angelitucha: The JUDRA representatives are currently participating in a dialogue about mining.

Angelitucha: Suspenden todo tipo de minería en la Provincia de Andahuaylas segun una resolucion del gobierno regional.

Angelitucha: All types of mining have been suspended in the Andahuaylas province according to a resolution by the regional government.

Angelitucha: Los representates de JUDRA continuan con la huelga, solicitan la modificación de la resolucion emitida por el gobierno regional.

Angelitucha: The JUDRA representatives continue the strike, they request the modification of the regional government's resolution.

On Saturday, November 5, the road Andahuaylas – Abancay remained blocked [es] at kilometer 12, in an area called Ramal a Pacucha of the Champaccocha community in the San Jerónimo district, keeping vehicles going to and coming from Cusco and Abancay from reaching their destination. Twitter user Yesenia (@yegris21) shares with concern a friend's message regarding some of the problems that emerged between the protesters and the transportation workers as a consequence of the strike:

@zezzzar EN SAN JERONIMO, ANDAHUAYLAS , LOS HUELGUISTAS ESTAN BAJANDO A LA GENTE DE LOS BUSES QUE VAN A LIMA, PARA GOLPEARLOS Y MI HERMANA

@zezzzar In San Jeronimo, Andahuaylas, the strikers are getting people going to Lima off buses to hit them and my sister
Fair in Andahuaylas. Image by Flickr user Anabelle Handdoek, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Fair in Andahuaylas. Image by Flickr user Anabelle Handdoek, under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

On Sunday, November 6, commercial activities in the Sunday Fair were suspended [es] as a security measure and because the main roads remained blocked, preventing the arrival of goods to the fair. There were also problems in downtown Andahuaylas.

Fernando Zuzunaga (@ratchus) shared some messages of concern that he received from that city:

@ratchus: En Andahuaylas han incendiado un Bus de pasajeros, han tomado las calles, no hay negocios, el mercado hoy casi fue saqueado.

@ratchus: In Andahuaylas they've set a passenger bus on fire, they've occupied streets, there are no businesses, today's market was almost ransacked.

@ratchus: La población rural de Andahuaylas ha tomado el centro de la ciudad, están protestando contra los estragos que está causando la minería.

@ratchus: The rural population of Andahuaylas has occupied the downtown area, they are protesting against the havoc caused by mining.

@ratchus: Un mototaxista que estaba trabajando fue detenido y lo agarraron a latigazos, hay violencia en Andahuaylas.

@ratchus: A mototaxi driver that was working was detained and whipped, there is violence in Andahuaylas.

@ratchus: Hace dos días las autoridades intentaron negociar el cese de las protestas en Andahuaylas, solo consiguieron q se radicalicen las acciones.

@ratchus: Authorities tried to negotiate the cessation of protests in Andahuaylas two days ago, they only managed to radicalize the acts.

While @Apu _Rimak expressed his thoughts about the strike:

@Apu_Rimak: No creo q a la prensa le interese q hoy domingo cuarto día de paro en Andahuaylas, la feria dominical no se haya llevado a cabo.

@Apu_Rimak: I don't think think that the press will care that today, the fourth day of the strike in Andahuaylas, the Sunday fair was not carried out.

@Apu_Rimak: Esperemos que la sangre no llegue al río mañana entre el JUDRA y los “mineros artesanales” de Huancabamba – Andahuaylas – Apurímac

@Apu_Rimak: Let's hope the blood between the JUDRA and the “artisanal miners” of Huancabamba – Andahuaylas – Apurímac doesn't reach the river tomorrow

On Monday, November 7, the situation remained the same, with reports [es] (video) that there were over 5 thousand merchants affected by the measure and that members of the Trade Union of Education Workers (SUTE) had also joined the protest, as well as other sectors [es] that managed to incorporate in the platform of demands the removal of big mining companies which had to suspend their explorations, like ARES SAC and Apurímac Ferrum, among others.

An additional consequence of the strike [es] has been the suspension of school classes, according to reports [es], to “protect the physical and psychological integrity of children and adolescents in the region.” Moreover, the strike and road blockade have started to affect [es] the markets from Abancay, where housewives began noticing shortages of basic goods.

Strikers have requested [es] the immediate presence of a High Level Commission to address the issue of water and mining within its jurisdiction, since as previously mentioned, they are not satisfied with the regional government's resolution [es]. In this regard, it has been reported [es] that the Minister of Agriculture will meet with the National Farmers Association to discuss the issue.

Alejandro, from the blog Inquietud Chanka, publishes a post called “The countryside's awareness” [es], where he states that the farmers’ struggle is a struggle for everyone, because “the issue of environmental pollution is not a countryman's problem, it is a general problem.”

Desde hace cuatro días, campesinos de diferentes puntos de la provincia ocuparon la ciudad de Andahuaylas con el único propósito de hacer valer sus derechos, derechos que en verdad, también es de la zona urbana, pero la gente de la ciudad, llamémoslo por conveniencia o cobardía no son participes de esta lucha.

Yo estoy de acuerdo con una minera formal, que la explotación sea de manera más razonable y pensada, ¿pero quienes están capacitados para desarrollar este tipo de minería? Piensen. Solamente las transnacionales. Es decir, las empresas extranjeras. Las leyes nuestras en torno a la minería están hechas a la medida de ellos. ¿Y qué hay con los artesanos, con estos que llamamos informales?, pues, hacen lo que pueden, con tal de sacar ventaja individual, no les interesa ni siquiera el prójimo, mucho menos el medio ambiente. Pero tampoco la vida del peruano interesa al foráneo.

Los campesinos piden que el gobierno regional solucione sus petitorios, entre ellos el retiro de los mineros que solo dejan contaminación del agua y aire. Pero yo digo que el problema no es del gobierno regional, es del gobierno nacional. Es el ejecutivo que debe empezar a tomar las medidas a favor de la población.

For four days, farmers from different parts of the province occupied the city of Andahuaylas with the sole purpose of asserting their rights, rights that in reality, are also the rights of the urban area, but the people of the city, for convenience or cowardice, are not participants in this struggle.

I agree with formal mining, that mining operations be carried out in a more reasonable and thoughtful manner, but who are trained to develop this type of mining? Think. Only the multinationals. That is, foreign companies. The laws around mining are tailored to them. What about the artisans, those we call informal?, well, they do what they can, to take individual advantage, they are not interested in others, let alone the environment. But the outsider is not interested in the life of the Peruvian either.

Farmers ask the regional government to solve their petitions, including the withdrawal of miners that are leaving only water and air pollution. But I say that this is not the regional government's problem, it is the national government's problem. It is the executive who must begin to take measures in favor of the people.

There's fear [es] that the absence of a quick solution to this problem in the coming days will further radicalize the strike. For a government that has spoken extensively about social inclusion and favoring minorities, this is a kind of test. However it is not its only test: other cases related to mining and environmental pollution, such as the Conga mining project in Cajamarca, are also close to reaching a dangerous boiling point, increasing the geographic scope of the country's social conflicts. We will keep you informed.

The original version of this post was published in Globalizado [es], Juan Arellano's personal blog, on November 6, 2011.

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