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Peru: Violence on Sixth Day of Cajamarca Strike

There have been new reports of violence in Cajamarca on the sixth day of the strike going on in the region.  As you may recall, the various organizations against the mining activities and specifically the Conga Project agreed to start an indefinite strike starting May 31, and the first day took place without violence.

The blog NoticiasSer has been providing reports [es] about each day of the strike. On the second day, [es] friction with the police was reported, resulting in some demonstrators being injured with pellet guns. The third [es] and fourth [es] days went by with no major confrontations. On the fifth day, several marches throughout the city were reported, as well as clashes between students and police.

El estudiante Juan Manuel Castillo Torres de la Universidad Privada del Norte, desde el hospital de Cajamarca, denunció que al momento de salir de su centro de estudios, al promediar las 2:30 de la tarde, efectivos de la policía han detenido y castigado a diversos estudiantes, dejándolos con heridas en varias zonas del cuerpo. No obstante, por el momento se desconoce la identidad de los demás estudiantes heridos.

From the hospital in Cajamarca, student Juan Manuel Castillo Torres of Universidad Privada del Norte (Northern Private University) reported that as the students left the school, around 2:30 in the afternoon, police officers arrested several students, injuring some and leaving them with wounds in various parts of their bodies. However, at the moment, the identities of the other wounded students are not known.

The following video uploaded to YouTube by user Ojos de Lechuza [es] shows the moments described.

The sixth [es] day saw blockades and groups of protesters in various parts of the city, as well as protests in other cities in the region:

En Bambamarca y Celendín la población continúa movilizándose. En estos momentos, en la plaza de Armas de Celendín se realiza un mitin. Desde Cajamarca el presidente de la Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina, Mílton Sánchez, informó a Noticias SER: “Hemos venido a Cajamarca con 5 mil pobladores pero en estos momentos en Celendín la población está apoyando el paro”.

In Bambamarca and Celendín, too, the populace is mobilizing. There is currently a rally going on the Plaza de Armas of Celendín. From Cajamaca, Milton Sánchez, the president of Celendín Interagency Group, told SER News: “We came to Cajamarca with 5,000 people, but at this moment in Celendín, the people are supporting the strike.”

In the Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca a meeting was held during which the regional president of Cajamarca, Gregorio Santos, addressed the protesters with some phrases that later created a commotion (full audio here) [es]:

Reactions to this speech were not only on the Internet and in the media [es] but the Presidency of the national Congress issued a statement regarding the speech in which Gregorio Santos was accused of “inciting rebellion” and violating his duties as Regional President. The statement continues:

En aras de salvaguardar la democracia, la tranquilidad pública y no permitir la exaltación de la violencia y la comisión de delitos como los que aquí señalo; INVOCO al Señor Fiscal de la Nación, JOSÉ PELÁEZ BARDALES, a que actúe de oficio conforme lo señala el artículo 159º de la Constitución, formulando la inmediata denuncia penal que procure reponer el orden y el Estado de Derecho en la Región de Cajamarca.

In order to safeguard democracy, public peace and not allow the glorification of violence and crimes such as those pointed out here, I call upon the Attorney General of the nation, José Peláez Bardales, to act as officially spelled out in Article 159 of the Constitution, immediately filing criminal charges to seek to restore order and the rule of law in the region of Cajamarca.

After the rally, the protesters headed for various parts of the city, where, in the afternoon, the police came to evict them. The blog Wauqui reported [es] cases of police repression near the National University of Cajamarca and the Plaza Bolognesi:

La PNP [Policía Nacional del Perú] lanzó gases lacrimógenos, golpeó e hirió con perdigones a manifestantes. No existió bloqueo de ruta, desmanes o delito alguno que provocara la reacción de las fuerzas de seguridad.

The PNP [National Police of Perú] fired tear gas, beat and wounded protesters with pellet guns. There was no road blockade, riot or any crime that provoked the reaction of security forces.

The report continues:

Aylambo fue la zona de mayor conflicto. Distrito semi-rural y de quebradas pronunciadas, muchos escaparon por su picadas. Otros, perdidos, deambularon por la zona hasta ser ayudados por vecinos del lugar. Todavía hacia la medianoche no se podía precisar el número de heridos. En un primer momento la atención a las víctimas en el Hospital Regional fue imposible. La PNP sitio sus instalaciones, lo que obligó a improvisar una enfermería en la Iglesia San Francisco. 50 fue el número estimativo de heridos. Todos manifestantes.

Aylambo was the area of greatest conflict. A semi-rural district of steep ravines, many escaped on its hiking trails. Others wandered lost until residents of the area helped them. By midnight, the exact number of injured was still unknown. At first, it was impossible for the victims to get help at the Regional Hospital. The PNP besieged their facilities, forcing them to improvise an aid station at the Church of San Francisco. The number of injured was estimated at 50. All demonstrators.

The blog Frente de Defensa Ambiental (Environmental Defense Front) also reported the events:

A las 9.30 p.m,. la policía nacional ha atacado en forma salvaje a los campesinos de Bambamarca que se encontraban en la zona de Aylambo, salida a la costa, estos hermanos fueron trasladados al hospital y otros están siendo atendidos en el atrio de la iglesia San Francisco. Convocamos a todo el pueblo a salir a las calles y solidarizarse con nuestros hermanos de Bambamarca.

At 9:30 p.m. the national police savagely attacked the Bambamarca farmers who were in the Aylambo area, towards the coast, these brothers were taken to the hospital and others were treated in the atrium of the Church of San Francisco. We call on the entire community to take to the streets in solidarity with our brothers in Bambamarca.

But these were not the only incidents of violence. Two videos in particular have attracted considerable attention for the show of gratuitous violence. In the first one, uploaded by carolinach55, the police can be seen attacking women setting up an open-air kitchen organized by the protesters (minute 3.00).

In the second video, uploaded by 24 horas, a videographer tells how the police assaulted him for filming part of the attack seen in the first video.

Meanwhile in Lima, reactions to Santos’ speech monopolized the media. For example Yehude Simon (ex prime minister) said [es] that asking for the president to step down is a call for a coup, and the minister of defense indicated [es] that Santos is trying to take Peru to dangerous extremes. However, Congressman Javier Diez Canseco said  “It is absurd to accuse Gregorio Santos of inciting rebellion”, and at the other political extreme, Aldo Mariátegui wrote [es] he saw no reason for such a fuss when Humala himself used similar language when he was the opposition (see for example this video [es] where Ollanta Humala asks for then president Alan García to step down.

From Cajamarca Gregorio Santos himself clarified his words indicating [es] he would collect signatures to convoke a Constitutional Congress to change the current Constitution. For his part, President Humala said, referring to the promises made by him, “It is not easy to build what others seek to destroy, it's difficult but possible because we will create the Great Transformation, whether or not the extremists like it.”

Although demands for stepping down or removal from the presidency are strong words, it's not the first time this has happened, so it should not be taken too seriously. As the journalist Rollly Valdivia commented commented [es] on Facebook:

Tranquilos. Pedir vacancia es casi un deporte nacional. Recuerden el gobierno de Toledo, donde supuestos grandes demócratas pedían que deje el cargo…

Don't worry. Demanding removal is almost a national pastime. Remember the Toledo government, when alleged great democrats asked him to leave office…
Original post published on the personal blog [es] of Juan Arellano.
Thumbnail by Flickr user El Turbión, used with permission of Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 2.0 Genérica

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