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Peru: State of Emergency Declared in Cajamarca

After recent developments in Cajamarca regarding the strike against the Conga mining project, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers called for a dialogue [es] on Saturday, December 3, as a reaction to the ultimatum given by the representative of the Environment Defense Front, Wilfredo Saavedra Marreros, that left the government three days to declare the project Conga non-viable [es]. This dialogue was accepted [es] by the leadership and on Sunday, December 4, the negotiations started [es].

However, both sides kept their positions [es] unchanged: the infeasibility of the Conga Project defended by the representatives of the Defense Front, and the end of the strike pushed by the government. Finally, after nine hours of conversation, the day ended [es] with no agreement, thus the strike, that at the time of writing this post had been going on for over 10 days, continued.

Afterwards, as it was previously [es] hinted, President Humala declared [es] a state of emergency in four provinces of Cajamarca: Celendin, Hualgayoc, Contumaza and Cajamarca. This practically kills the strike. According to the Prime Minister the decision was taken [es] as a precaution before the 72 hours of the ultimatum were reached.

According [es] to the Peruvian constitution, the State of Emergency “can restrict or suspend the exercise of the constitutional rights regarding freedom and personal security, the protection to avoid home trespassing, and the freedom to assemble and transit across the country.” Speaking on this matter, Luis Alberto Chavez in his blog Polithika doesn't think [es] that the state of emergency means the conflict is being militarized:

Sólo en condiciones de paz social, es posible estudiar la viabilidad del proyecto minero Conga que tiene un cuestionado Estudio de Impacto Ambiental (EIA) aprobado en el gobierno anterior. El país necesita la inversión privada, pero no a costa de impactar negativamente de manera irreversible en el medioambiente. Corresponde, en consecuencia, revisar el EIA y hacer nuevos estudios. [...] El Estado de Emergencia genera, de todos modos, una situación de tensión que requiere un alto sentido de responsabilidad de parte tanto de las fuerzas del gobierno como de los agitadores sociales para que no se desborden las pasiones. Por el bien del país, nadie espera que hablen las balas.

Only in social peaceful conditions is it possible to study the viability of the Conga mining project that has a questionable Study of Environment Impact (EIA) approved by the former government. The country needs private investment, but not by negatively and irreversibly impacting the environment. It is therefore right to review the EIA and do more studies. [...] The State of Emergency generates, in every scenario, a tense situation that requires a high sense of responsibility from the government forces as well as the social agitators so passions don't take over. For the sake of the country, nobody wants bullet talk.

But, as expected, the Environmental Defense Front of Cajamarca's blog has a contrary position and states [es] that “President Humala Tasso has decided to execute his true government program: neoliberal continuity”:

Con la decisión del gobierno de la “concertación nacional” se ha cerrado la ya escasa expectativa que mucha gente tenía todavía de ver algún “cambio”. La derecha pidió represión y el gobierno le entregó en bandeja de plata. [...] Pero el pueblo de Cajamarca, esa gran mayoría, está salvando la dignidad de su historia de grandes luchas democráticas y patrióticas, con sus dirigentes populares al frente. Con toda seguridad, la lucha puede sufrir un obstáculo en el camino, pero no la derrota de los que bajan la cerviz frente a los poderosos. ¡ Democracia sí, dictadura no ! ¡Viva el pueblo de Cajamarca, abajo el estado de emergencia y los traidores!

With the government's decision of “national consultation” the slim expectation that many people still had that they would see some “change” has faded. The right wing asked for repression and the government handed it on a silver platter. [...] But the people of Cajamarca, the masses, has saved the dignity of their history of long democratic and patriotic struggles, with their leaders at the front. It's certain, that the fight might suffer an obstacle on the road, but not the defeat on the hands of those who vow to the powerful. Democracy yes, dictatorship no! Long live the people of Cajamarca, down with the state of emergency and the traitors!

Andres Caballero of the blog Green Cajamarca Network [es] shared his impression along with some pictures of Sunday's protests in Cajamarca:

Minera Yanacocha volvió hacer de las suyas, sacó a un grupo de sus trabajadores con polos blancos y letreros en mano y por su puesto bien protegidos por los policías para reclamar les dejen seguir contaminando a Cajamarca, entre tanto sus amos desde un céntrico restaurante de la ciudad monitoreaban al mínimo el movimiento de su portátil.

Ni la presencia de miles de policías, militares y francotiradores asustó a los cajamarquinos, quienes al enterarse de la presencia del Presidente del Concejo de Ministros en Cajamarca salieron en un colorido, concurrido y atractivo pasacalle

Yanacocha Mining did it again, it pulled out a bunch of workers with white shirts, armed with signs, and of course, well protected by the police to protest so they let them keep polluting Cajamarca, meanwhile their masters, from a restaurant in the city's downtown, followed the slightest movement from their laptops.

Not even the presence of thousands of policemen, soldiers and snipers scared the Cajamarcans, who after finding out about the presence of the President of the Ministers Council in Cajamarca, went out in a colorful, attractive musical protest.

For more photos you can check the following posts [es]: the blog “Mariategui. The Magazine” and an info graphic in The New Press [es]. In Lima, some columnists like Congressman Javier Diez Canseco see [es] a mismanagement of the situation by the executive, and others demand [es] a stronger presence from the government, blaming the left wing from agitating the social landscape, or detail [es] all the losses and benefits not gained because of the radical attitude towards the mining companies.

From Lima, journalist Jacqueline Fowks, who writes on the blog Notes from Lenovo, invites [es] readers to reflect on the matter with the phrase: “Physically, Lima is 861 kilometers from Cajamarca, but [...] the distance between the capital and the department is way longer than those 861 kilometers,” and focuses on some unknown details of the failed negotiation in Cajamarca:

Pese a que una nota de prensa de la PCM negó haber condicionado la firma del acta al levantamiento del paro, una declaración del premier muestra que cuando les pidieron tiempo para consultar el tema, ellos se negaron a concederlo (cfr. en el segundo 26). [...] Líderes de opinión, incluidos asesores externos de Yanacocha como Sandro Venturo, y ciudadanos desacreditaron dicho pedido de tiempo para consultar con ‘las bases’, cuestionando la representatividad de los interlocutores [...] Es sabido que en organizaciones no capitalinas, sean andinas, amazónicas e incluso de colonos (mestizos) sus representantes sólo pueden tomar decisión acerca de lo previamente discutido, en caso contrario, ven como una mala práctica que el dirigente adopte una posición sin consultar.

La situación en Cajamarca es percibida con un lente distinto según la posición de cada quién. En los últimos días los comerciantes locales han aparecido más en los medios de comunicación quejándose de los perjuicios del paro, especialmente en la TV y radios capitalinas, y de otro lado están las organizaciones y ciudadanos que se sienten intimidados en el estado de emergencia debido a la gran cantidad de efectivos de la policía y del Ejército que han llegado en los últimos días al departamento.

Even though a press release from the PCM denied having conditioned the signature of the act to the end of the strike, a declaration of the premier shows that when they were asked for time to consult on the issue [es], they didn't agree upon it (crf. on the 26th second). [...] Opinion leaders, including the external advisors of Yanacocha, like Sandro Venturo and other citizens, discredit such request for time to consult with ‘the bases', questioning the speakers' representativeness [...] It is known that the representatives of any non-capital organization, whether Andean, Amazonic or even Colonial (Mestizo) can only make a decision on a matter previously discussed, otherwise, it is seen as a bad practice that the leader takes a position without consulting.

Cajamarca's situation is perceived with a different lens according to the position of the viewer. During recent days, local merchants have appeared more on the media complaining about the damages caused by the strike, especially on TV and radio stations of the capital, and on the other side, there are organizations and citizens that feel intimidated by the state of emergency due to the large number of policemen and army soldiers [es] that have arrived during the last days.

Then she makes a serious accusation and comments on the media coverage of the Cajamarca conflict:

es interesante saber que el encargado de comunicaciones de Yanacocha, Roberto del Águila, pidió a Víctor Urquiaga, integrante de una empresa de monitoreo y asesoría de prensa, que le ayude a redactar los titulares de los diarios Expreso y Correo la noche del martes, poco antes de que el presidente Humala y el gerente de Yanacocha, Carlos Santa Cruz, anunciaran la suspensión del proyecto Conga. [...]

Al día siguiente, la volada y titular de primera plana de Expreso fueron: “Ante actos de violencia de “frentes de defensa” regionales, ultras e izquierda caviar” “Conga en suspenso.” Por su lado, el diario Correo tituló así: “Otra vez triunfa la irracionalidad” “Se “chupan” con Conga” “Yanacocha tira la esponja a pedido de timorato gobierno.”

El derecho de los cajamarquinos de proteger sus recursos y vivir en un entorno sano (cosa que perdieron en la provincia de Cajamarca desde que llegó Yanacocha en la década de los 90) se ha estado presentado por lo general en los medios de forma sesgada hacia uno de los dos extremos. En uno acusan a los cajamarquinos de ser unos ‘pobres manipulados’ por extremistas que no quieren el desarrollo y quieren quedarse pobres. En el otro, están quienes hartos por las malas prácticas de la empresa minera, no confían en ella y se sienten traicionados por el presidente Humala (al pasar de la preferencia por el agua a ‘el agua y el oro’ a la vez).

It is interesting to know that the communications attendant of Yanacocha, Roberto de Aguila, asked Victor Urquiaga [es], a member of a monitoring company and press consultant, to help him write down the headlines of the Expreso and Correo daily newspapers on Tuesday night, just before President Humala and Yanacocha's Manager, Carlos Santa Cruz, announced the suspension of the Conga project. [...]

The following day, the front page and headline of Expreso were: “Because of the violent acts of regional, radical and leftist ‘defense fronts', Conga is on hold.” Also, the newspaper Correo [es] had the following headline: “Irrationality wins again” “Conga gets ‘sucked up'” “Yanacocha throws the towel after a request of a mealy-mouthed government.”

The right of the people of Cajamarca to protect their resources and live in a healthy environment (something that was lost in the Cajamarca province after Yanacocha opened in the 90′s) has been presented in the media with a one-sided look of one of the extremes. One accuses the people of Cajamarca of being “manipulated poor” by the extremist that do not want development and want to stay poor. On the other side, there are those who are tired of the ill practices of the mining industry, don't trust it and feel betrayed by President Humala (for going from water to ‘water and gold’ at the same time)

Even though the situation in Cajamarca is said to be calm [es], and several political sectors in Lima have given [es] the declaration of the state of emergency their approval, it is still not very clear what the Defense Front and other activists will do next.

Post originally published on Juan Arellano's blog [es] on December 5th. 2011.
Image of Flickr user C-Monster, used under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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