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Peru: March for Peace and the Strike in Cajamarca

After learning about the government’s report for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Conja mining project in Cajamarca [es] and the presidential decision that the Conga project is viable, though with better environmental conditions, Cajamarcan leaders have agreed [es] to give more time to the Executive – until May 31 – to declare the impossibility of the Conga mining project; otherwise, they will go on an indefinite regional strike in the region’s 13 provinces.

However, the leaders, citizens and the government have not sat back waiting for the deadline. As soon as they knew about the presidential decision, the Cajamarcan leaders organized [es] protest marches and demonstrations; they also set up [es] defense fronts up to the Cajamarcan villages, in order to facilitate the activity in the region.

Meanwhile, the government organized [es] several dialogue tables in Cajamarca with the Vice Ministers of Environment and Agriculture to discuss the scope of the report. According to the Vice Minister of Agriculture, “an atmosphere of distrust” prevailed [es].

Several organizations from different parts of the country have announced [es] their support to the strike of May 31.  The blog Environmental Defense Front has collected several press releases of organizations, such as, People’s Defense Front of Ayacucho, Amplio Macro Sur Front, Unity Pact, Binational Congress of the Peoples (Peru Ecuador), and Committee of the Lambayeque Irrigators [es], among others. A demonstration in support of the strike has been announced [es] in Lima for May 30, and a regional strike has been scheduled [es] in Arequipa.

31  de Mayo - Paro en Cajamarca

May 31 – Strike in Cajamarca, published in the blog Point of view and proposal

The government, in turn, has had an effect [es] on the political aspirations of Gregorio Santos, Cajamarca regional president, affirming that his main objective is the 2016 presidential candidacy, not the interests of his fellow Cajamarcans. This occurred after it was known that Santos was helping [es] set up a political front, something that was also criticized [es] by the president of the Environmental Defense Front of Cajamarca, Wilfredo Saavedra.

Last May 22, different activities, such as marches, demonstrations, and rallies began [es] in several Cajamarcan provinces to protest against the Conga mining project. As a result, police presence increased [es]. A few days later, the president of the Council of Ministers, Oscar Valdes, said [es] that the government will respect the Rule of Law and expects Yanacocha Mining to resume its activities.

Before this, the so-called Cajamarca Collective organized [es] a Peace March, on May 29 in Cajamarca. Soon it gained [es] many followers, especially business people and people related [es] to different economical activities and other organizations [es]. On May 26, Luis Guerrero, former mayor of Cajamarca said [es] that everything was ready for this march and that about [es] 20,000 people were expected to participate in favor of “peace and development.”

And so, on May 29, the Peace March took place. Some media affirmed [es]t hat only a few hundred attended, while others claimed [es] that it was in fact 30,000 people. However, the march had its share of controversy: on one hand, some members of the Collective denounced [es] the presence of violent groups, and on the other hand, the group opposing the mining project denounced [es] the march organizer for not paying his workers employee benefits.

Even though there was an attempted confrontation [es] between the two groups once the march had started, the incident did not escalate, perhaps due to the implementation [es] of security measures. However, some media considered [es] this march as evidence of the divergence in the population about the mining activity, not only in Cajamarca but also in the rest of the country.

In the blog Catarsis and Harakiri, an article published in the Cajamarcan newspaper Panorama is reproduced [es]:

Durante la movilización reinó un ambiente de confraternidad y apoyo entre los que quieren ver una ciudad con desarrollo, exenta de violencia, a favor de las inversiones mineras en la región y en contra de las paralizaciones. Muchos de los participantes acudieron a la misma vistiendo prendas blancas y portando banderolas con mensajes de rechazo a la violencia que se intenta imponer en esta parte del país.

Dicha movilización se da a pocas horas de otra, que tiene intereses totalmente contrarios a la misma, es decir rechazar el proyecto minero Conga, que generará 4800 millones de dólares en inversión para combatir la pobreza que ubica a Cajamarca en el segundo departamento más pobre del país.

During the manifestation an atmosphere of fraternity and support prevailed among those who want the city to develop, to be free of violence, to be in favor of the mining investments in the region and against strikes. Many people attended the march wearing white clothes and holding flags with messages against violence, which is being imposed in this part of the country.

This manifestation takes place a few hours after another with a completely opposite interest, that is, to reject the Conga mining project. This project will generate 4800 billion dollars worth of investments to fight poverty in Cajamarca, the second poorest department in the country.

The blog Reporter W of the RPP radio station reproduced [es] some videos of the march, as well as the attempted confrontation. This video of the manifestation is from user Cajamarca si va [es].

The following video of the confrontation is from the user deatfuck [es].

The blog Caledin Libre reproduced [es] another accusation against the march organizers: some of the participants were allegedly coerced or paid to walk.

Aprovechándose de la POBREZA Y MISERIA que existe en las áreas rurales alrededor de su “zona de influencia”, Yanacocha repartió miles de CUPONES como estos para acarrear en autobuses, combis y camiones a un gran número de campesinos a su llamada “Marcha por la Paz”.

Taking advantage of the POVERTY AND SCARCITY of the rural areas surrounding their “zone of influence,” Yanacocha distributed thousands of vouchers like these to take a great number of country people in buses, combis, and trucks to their so-called “Peace March.”

Cupones Marcha por la Paz

Peace March vouchers

Por su parte, el Gobierno AMENAZÓ a los beneficiarios del programa “Juntos” y a las madres del “Vaso de Leche” a sacarlos de las listas si no participaban en dicha Marcha.

In turn, the government THREATENED the beneficiaries of the “Juntos” program and the mothers of the “Vaso de leche” program to erase them from the list if they refused to participate in the march.

Maybe an unexpected consequence of the Peace March was the one that appeared [es] in the blog Red Verde Cajamarca: the resignation of the recording secretary of the Regional Independent Front (RIF), member of the Cajamarca Collective, once he learned about the pro-mining stance of Luis Guerrero, former mayor of Cajamarca and leader of the RIF.

It is in this scenario that at midnight on May 31 the strike will begin. Even though there is strong [es] police presence from the part of the government, the protesters have [es] the support from people of different towns in Cajamarca. Several delegations coming from other parts of the country have arrived in the city to participate in the strike.

Original post published in Juan Arellano's blog [es].

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