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Peru: Conflict in Espinar Creates Rift in Ruling Party

In the morning of June 4, 2012, the conflict between the Espinar community and the mining company Xstrata Copper took a toll on Peru's ruling party when congresswoman Veronika Mendoza [es] resigned from the Peruvian Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Peruano) and her seat in the Gana Perú parliamentary alliance.

The congresswoman published two letters on her blog, one of them titled “I'm with those who still believe that another country can be made, with solidarity, justice and peace“[es], and mentions, among other things:

Hemos pasado de la promesa de un Ollanta Humala que declara en la plaza Dos de Mayo el día de su elección que “su único jefe es y será el pueblo peruano” y que se compromete a realizar cambios profundos, a un gobierno que continúa el modelo neoliberal. Un modelo primario exportador que no genera desarrollo intercultural y democrático, ni mercados locales articulados, que mantiene la precarización del trabajo y que defiende los intereses de los grupos de poder económicos, entre los que destacan los intereses de las industrias extractivas, las cuales imponen sus proyectos sin licencia social y afectan gravemente ecosistemas valiosos.

We have gone from the promise declared by Ollanta Humala in the Dos de Mayo Plaza on the day of his election that “his only boss are and will be the Peruvian people” and that is committed to big changes, to a government that is continuing the neo liberal model. This model primarily focuses on exports and doesn't encourage intercultural or democratic development, nor diverse local markets. [It is a model[ that maintains precariousness in the job market and defends the interests of powerful economic groups, among them those greatly interested in extractive industries which impose their projects without the approval of the people and heavily affect precious ecosystems.

Congresswoman Mendoza actively participated during the recent events in Espinar, seeking calm and talks [es], and afterwards, the resignation [es] of the Prime Minister Óscar Valdés, for employing the “wrong” strategy in Espinar. However, she was also involved in the controversy when it was discovered that she had alarmed [es] the mayor of Espinar with a report pertaining to another mining project and not the Tintaya one. As a result [es], the Parliament's Ethic Committee proposed opening an investigation on the congresswoman.

With respect to these reports, the congresswoman declared [es] that the issue was not “a problem with reports”, and rejected the affirmations that there was no contamination and that the public's concerns be ignored. Along these lines, Mendoza also shared a video [es] on Facebook [es] “that clarifies the string of lies put forward by some media houses.”

But it doesn't end there, as it was later reported that two other members of congress from Gana Perú, Javier Diez Canseco and Rosa Mavila, also submitted their letters of resignation [es]. The text [es] reveals, alongside motives for resignation, the following:

Los que habían sido derrotados en las elecciones pasaron a cogobernar y a imponer sus criterios autoritarios y de subordinación a los grandes grupos de poder económico, en espacios decisivos, contradiciendo lo prometido al país

Those who were beaten in the elections are now co-ruling and imposing their autocratic criteria of subordination to big groups with economic power, in important spaces, contradicting the promises made to the country.

It appears that this resignation had been considered days before, since in his newspaper column in La República, congressman Diez Canseco mentions:

Van 12 muertos en conflictos sociales en este gobierno. Lamentable, inaceptable. Expresión de falta de atención y prevención, incapacidad de diálogo e incumplimiento de compromisos y esperanzas frustradas, que crean terreno propicio para violentistas de uno y otro lado. […] No es posible ser cómplice ni compartir este manejo que genera gran malestar entre sus votantes y descompone los bloques que lo llevaron a la victoria.

There are 12 dead in social conflict during this government. Lamentable and unacceptable. Expression of a lack of attention and prevention, inability to dialogue or fulfill promises or frustrated hopes, which create a breeding ground for agitators from all sides. […] It isn't possible to be an accomplice or condone this management that encourages great unrest among voters and undoes the blockades that lead them to victory.

The events of Espinar have confirmed the differences that were already brewing within the ruling party, instigated by a presidential move [es] towards more pragmatic tendencies inspired by the Right, and emphasized by the government's position in cases like Conga and now Espinar.

The crisis was accentuated [es] when the block of congress members from Cusco, the region where Espinar is located, were emphatic in the request for the resignation of the Prime minister in reaction to this conflict. Congresswoman Mendoza belongs to this group of congress members. According to reports [es], up to six congress members from the ruling party could be withdrawing. For its part, the government has minimised [es] these resignations.

Meanwhile, Óscar Mollohuanca, mayor of Espinar, after being detained and transferred to Cusco for questioning before the Peruvian National Police, is now facing [es] charges for rioting, kidnapping, damages and coercion. Later Mollohuanca was transferred [es] to Ica for security reasons, since some 500 people were protesting in front of the Palace of Justice in Cusco and various judges and prosecutors had been threatened [es] with respect to this.

On Saturday, June 2, the Magistrate's Court of Ica, by order of the Director of Public Prosecution ordered [es] five months of preventive detention for the mayor of Espinar, who could be condemned to [es] up to 8 years of prison. The mayors of Cusco have classified it as [es] “cruel” and “unusual” punishment of their peer in Espinar, and that it was “evidence of authoritarianism”.

The Judiciary said [es] that the proceedings from Cusco (Espinar) and Cajamarca (Conga), due to crimes related to social convulsion, may be referred to the Court or Higer Chamber of the Judicial Districts of Ica and Lambayeque, respectively, a measure that has also been a source of controversy [es].

Former Minister Juan Sheput reflected [es] on all this in his blog, indicating that the government is suffering from a credibility crisis:

Hemos vuelto a las épocas de dudas y detenciones arbitarias. En horas de la mañana en Ideele Radio se denunciaba la detención de pacíficos dirigentes sociales a los cuáles se les habría sembrado pruebas falsas, cartuchos de balas y dinamita, con el objeto de detenerlos. Si así fuera pues habríamos retrocedido a prácticas fujimontesinistas […] Oscar Valdés debe irse. Los que lo defienden se niegan a ver la realidad de una incompetencia y afán militarista que hoy se convierte en el principal enemigo de la inversión. El gran problema es que como van las cosas el clima de violencia social se puede generalizar por todo el país por culpa exclusivamente del gobierno del presidente Humala.

We've returned to a time of doubts and arbitrary arrests. During the morning hours Ideele Radio condemned the arrests of peaceful social leaders on false evidence, bullet and dynamite cartridges, with the intention of detaining them. If it were so, we would have taken steps backwards into “fujimontesinista” (referring to the former president Alberto Fujimori, who employed authoritarian practices in the ruling of the country, along with his right hand man, Vladimiro Montesinos, in the 1990′s) practices […] Oscar Valdes has to go. Those who defend him refuse to see the reality of his incompetence and the militant haste that turned into the main enemy of investments. The problem is that the way things are going a violent climate can diffuse through the entire country and it would be entirely the Humala administration's fault.

Silvio Rendón of Gran Combo Club perceives [es] some sort of interference from the United States in the harshness of the repression of social conflicts related to mining. He bases his argument on a cable revealed by Wikileaks which requested that United States embassies provide a list of countries and industries considered top priority for national security:

Es decir, hay una huelga de trabajadores en Yanacocha, una protesta que limita la actividad de Xstrata en Ancash, un bloqueo contra la minera San Rafael en Puno, etc., y en la embajada de los Estados Unidos se ponen nerviosos porque interpretan que estas protestas afectan su “seguridad nacional”. La embajadora comienza a presionar al gobierno peruano a que acabe con las protestas. La voluntad de los ciudadanos peruanos no cuenta ni para el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y, lamentablemente, tampoco para el gobierno peruano, representante más de los poderes fácticos que del poder que emana de la ciudadanía.

So, there's a labour strike in Yanacocha, a protest that limited the activities at Xstrata in Ancash, a blockade against mining in San Rafael in Puno, etc. and in the US embassy they get nervous because they think it is a threat to their “national security”. The ambassador starts to pressure the Peruvian government to stop the protests. The will of the Peruvian people doesn't matter to the United states, nor, sadly, to the Peruvian government, a representative of de facto powers rather than of the power which emanates from the citizenry.

Meanwhile President Humala guards his silence on these matters, and tactfully backs Prime Minister Valdés. But there are those who say that the Mayor of Espinar, Óscar Mollohuanca, would be the government's first [es] political prisoner, a fact that could hurt his image and that of the country as well.

Original post published on the personal blog [es] of Juan Arellano.
Thumbnail image of Peruvian Congress from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons License.

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