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Peru: Graffiti Overshadows Coverage of Anti-Mining Protests

During a recent march in Lima against the Conga mining project, the monument to the liberator Jose de San Marin, in the plaza bearing the same name in the historic city center, was defaced with slogans against the government and the mining project.

The march had been called for [es] by the CGTP (General Confederation of Peruvian Workers) to demand dialogue and resolution of the conflict from the Executive Branch, as well as demanding sanctions against those in the government responsible for the deaths that occurred during the protests. The march was carried out simultaneously in Lima and the cities of Arequipa [es], Piura [es], Cusco [es] and Puno [es], among other locations.

Soon the graffiti was described as “vandalism” [es] for undermining the nation's cultural heritage and sanctions [es] against the offenders were called for. In addition it was reported [es] that a “bottle, which could have been used as a Molotov cocktail” was found during the confrontations [es] between the protestors and the police. Since the events were broadcast live on a local cable channel, a daily newspaper later disseminated [es] the faces of the young people responsible for the grafitti, and by the end of the day, 5 protesters were arrested. [es]

This video, uploaded by YouTube user periodismope matches the transmission aired by the cable channel Canal N Lima during the act of graffiting:

[Translator's note: all Twitter references are in Spanish]

On Twitter, Javier Fernández (@javi270270) noted:

@javi270270: Ahora la gran marcha de la Plaza San Martin será reducida por medios a pintas del Monumento a San Martin……

@javi270270: Now the great protest of the Plaza San Martin will be reduced by the media to just the graffiting of the San Martin monument..

Meanwhile, for Miguel Prialé Ugás (@miguelpriale) what happened was nonsensical:

@miguelpriale: Q necesidad de hacer esto? Manifestantes hicieron pintas al monumento de San Martín en el centro de Lima

@miguelpriale: Why was this necessary? Protesters graffiting the monument of San Martin in the center of Lima

Carlos Aguilar (@carlitosilich1) contrasted the reactions to the two occurrences:

@carlitosilich1: Piden sanciones para los que hacen pintas en Plaza San Martin, y para los que matan campesinos en Cajamarca y Espinar piden condecoraciones.

@carlitosilich1: They call for sanctions against those who grafitti in the San Martin Plaza, and for those who kill peasants in Cajamarca and Espinar, they call for medals.

The next day, some council members from the Municipality of Lima, along with CGTP leaders, participated in the clean up of the monument. In the meantime, the young detainees were released [es] after being questioned [es] by the National Police,  who noted [es] that that the real perpetrators of the graffiti had not been detained.

It was also reported that the confrontations in the Plaza San Martin occurred when a group of protesters spurned [es] the presence of members of Movadef (supporters of terrorist leader Abimael Guzmán) at the protest. Human rights activist Rocío Silva Santisteban (@pavese) even tweeted that the graffiti in question had been done by Movadef people:

@pavese: Infiltrados de Movadef pintan monumento, policia los intenta sacar.

@pavese: Movadef infiltrators graffitied the monument, the police are trying to get them out.

Later in her column [es] in a local daily she doesn't stick to that version of events, but she does talk, from her point of view as a witness at the scene, about the confrontations between the young protesters and the members of Movadef: “An outbreak of fighting came towards the monument: it was Movadef people arguing with a group of people. They were thrown out by these young people, but the police immediately came running and everything was chaotic.”

But not everyone agreed with this version. Sociologist Teresa Cabrera disagrees and explains in a note [es] on her Facebook page:

Me interesa señalar que el affaire con MOVADEF se resolvió sin un solo policía, como tiene que ser. Corresponde a los militantes de izquierda y activistas de DDHH marcar su distancia –o no- con organizaciones de prédica pro violencia o pro amnistía. Para hacer eso, no necesitamos a la policía, ni a inteligencia, ni a los soplones. Ni, por cierto, a las ONG’s. Es claro que ni a la fuerza pública ni al periodismo hegemónico le interesa que se haga visible esta distinción. Todo lo contrario.

I want to point out that the affair with MOVADEF resolved without a single policeman, as it should be. It behooves the leftists and human rights activists to distance themselves-or not- with organizations preaching violence or pro amnesty. To do that, we do not need the police, or intelligence, or informers. Nor, by the way, the NGOs. It is clear that neither the police force nor hegemonic journalism is interested in making this distinction. Quite the contrary.

The YouTube video channel the Biblioteca Marquense [es] shows the young protesters chanting slogans against the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) presence: “Get out Sendero”, “Here, there, the fear is over”, “Gonzalo and Montesinos, the same murderers”, “Lucanamarca–never forgets”, “Murderers”, “Get out Sendero, this isn't your fight” and others.

In spite of this exchange of views about something more important than the graffiti itself, the media attention, and even the blogosphere, was more focused on the graffiti and the young people who did it. For example, in a blog post [es] by Crónicas del Poto there's no shortage of epithets about the youngsters involved in the graffiti and towards the left in general.

estos sujetos se zurraron en todos los peruanos en vivo y en directo y con sus actos demostraron el lado quizás más sincero de la izquierda dogmática, irracional y caviar = Si tu protesta es “justa” no importa que transgredas las leyes, destruyas propiedad privada o pública, amenaces, secuestres e incluso hagas que tu violencia empiece a cobrar vidas (si hay muertos no importa, son mártires útiles para la lucha).

these people thrashed all Peruvians live and direct, and by their actions showed perhaps the most honest side of the dogmatic left, irrational and cavalier—if your protest is “just” it doesn’t matter if you break the law, destroy private or public property, threaten, kidnap and even make your violence start to cost lives (if there are deaths it doesn’t matter, they are martyrs justified by the fight).

In his blog, journalist Raúl Weiner points [es] to the criminalization of protest and the loss of sense of proportion:

Un factor clave para que los conceptos se distorsionen es el papel de la prensa y el alto grado de concertación con el gobierno y los órganos de represión que se ha armado poco a poco en las últimas semanas. El caso de las pintas en el monumento a San Martín, al margen del aspecto vandálico y de baja cultura que expresa de parte de los autores, no tenía la dimensión criminal que de manera unánime le dieron las estaciones de televisión.

A key factor for concepts to become distorted is the role of the media and the high degree of coordination with government and law enforcement which has been gradually reinforced in recent weeks. The matter of the graffiti on the San Martin monument, apart from the vandalism and low culture expressed by the perpetrators, did not have the criminal dimension unanimously given to it by the television stations.

Weiner continues:

Ahí, ninguna [estación de televisión] se equivocó, titubeó o vio otras escenas de la movilización que pudieran interesar al público. Todas se concentraron en las pintadas y en una imagen de un joven que forcejeaba con un policía por el control de una bandera que era descrito como los graves enfrentamientos de la Plaza San Martín. La misma escena se repitió decenas de veces para que creyésemos que todo era un caos. Y todo esto era una mesa servida para que en la noche el presidente deplorara a los antipatrióticos que malogran los monumentos.

Not one [television station] hesitated or showed any other scenes of the demonstration that might have been of interest to the public. They all focused on the graffiti and on one image of a young man who struggled with the police for the control of a flag, which was described as heavy confrontations in the San Martin Plaza. The same scene was repeated dozens of times to have us believe that everything was in chaos. And all of this was set up so that night the president could deplore the unpatriotic ones who deface monuments.

The human rights activist Wilfredo Ardito in a post [es] on his blog Reflexiones Peruanas puts things in perspective about the persistent racism in Peruvian society:

los medios de comunicación logran manipular sentimientos y emociones, logrando que muchos limeños desinformados sientan que su bienestar se encuentra amenazado por las protestas contra el proyecto Conga […]

Yo particularmente estaba muy indignado, pues tengo especial afecto hacia la Plaza San Martín… pero era impresionante que muchos otros indignados se encogían de hombros frente a las muertes de Celendín, Bambamarca, Espinar, Sechura, Paita y un largo etcétera. Había también quienes proponían que los autores de las pintas fueran fusilados, incluido un integrante del Serenazgo de Lima. En realidad, también son muchos los limeños de sectores populares que han asumido las prioridades y el racismo de los más privilegiados.

The media are able to manipulate feelings and emotions, making many uninformed Limeños [residents of Lima] feel that their welfare is threatened by the protests against the Conga project […]

I particularly was very angry, because I have a special affection for the Plaza San Martin … but it was impressive that others who were upset at the same time shrugged off the deaths in Celendin, Bambamarca, Espinar, Sechura, Paita, and many more. There were also those who proposed that the perpetrators of the graffiti be shot, including a member of the Municipal Patrol of Lima. In fact, there are many Limeños in certain districts who have assumed the priorities and the racism of the privileged.

Meanwhile, in his blog Arbolaridad, Anahí Vásquez-de-Velasco sarcastically opines about the recent interest by the authorities in the architectural and cultural heritage of the city and their outrage at the attacks against them. He then asks, [es] among other things:

entonces, ¿por qué van a perforar el cerro Puruchuco, que es patrimonio cultural, con dos túneles a nivel del suelo? ¿Por qué la Hacienda Punchauca, lugar relacionado con nuestra independencia, está abandonada? ¿Por qué permiten la venta como terreno de edificios virreinales y republicanos? […]

Then why are they going to drill Puruchuco Hill, which is also part of our cultural heritage, with two tunnels at ground level? Why is the Punchauca Hacienda, a place tied in with our independence, abandoned? Why are colonial and Republican era buildings allowed to be sold as land? […]

The economist Silvio Rendón shares his views and more information about the current situation of the Conga project in a post (and video) [es] on his blog Gran Combo Club.

Finally, the July 17 council meeting for the Municipality of Lima did not pass [es] a motion that would declare those who damaged the monument to the Liberator San Martin “persona non grata.”

Original post [es] published on Juan Arellano's personal blog


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