Peru's government is seeking to restart talks with opponents of the $5 billion Minas Conga copper and gold mining project in the northern region of Cajamarca, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal Nov. 14. Pulgar Vidal said in a TV interview that Catholic priests Miguel Cabrejos and Gastón Garatea will resturn to dialogue, and called upon Cajamarca's regional president Gregorio Santos, to participate. "He has to be there," Pulgar Vidal said when asked if Santos, a harsh opponent of the project, would join the talks. As Pulgar Vidal spoke, campesino mine opponents from Cajamarca and their local supporters were maintaining a plantón (open-ended protest vigil) in front of the Lima offices of Newmont Mining, the US company that is the major investor in the Conga project.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began hearings on Dec. 3 regarding a longtime border dispute between Chile and Peru. Peru first filed its application with the ICJ in 2008 alleging that Chile refused to enter into negotiations over the disputed maritime border and requesting that the ICJ resolve the dispute. At issue is a 15,000 square mile triangle of the Pacific Ocean, which Chile currently controls. Bolivia also plans to send a delegation to the ICJ and plans its own lawsuit against Chile. A decision by the 15-judge panel is not expected until mid-2013 at the earliest, and it cannot be appealed once issued.
On Nov. 15, the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave Colombia a clear warning that the Court expects accountability at the senior level for the serious crimes that fall under its jurisdiction, or else it may pursue a formal investigation. The warning came in the first interim examination report ever issued by the Court's Prosecutor Office. Colombia joined the ICC in November, 2002 and is one of only eight countries formally under ICC examination. The other countries are Honduras, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, North Korea and Mali.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales sparked controvery by exlcuding the word mestizo, or mixed-race, as a choice for ethnic identification in the national census now underway—the country's first since 2001. Morales said that including the choice would only serve to "divide Bolivia," and pointed out that it had never been used in any previous census. But this census for the first time offers citizens the option of declaring themselves members of one of 40 ethnic groups. Opponents charge that Morales, who has built his political program around indigenous identity, is hoping to use the census results to consolidate power. "I'm not Aymara, I'm not Quechua I'm a mestizo," read graffiti painted on walls around La Paz.
On Nov. 11, the Second National Congress of Artisanal Miners was held at Juliaca, in Peru's southern region of Puno, presided over by Hernán de la Cruz Enciso, AKA Tankar Rau Rau Amaru, outspoken president of the National Confederation of Artisanal Miners and Small Producers (CONAMI), pledging to launch new road occupations if the government does not rescind decrees mandating the "legalization" of informal mining operations. A surprise guest was Walter Aduviri, leader of the Aymara campesino struggle in Puno, who has led strikes and protests against mining projects. De la Cruz and Aduviri shared a public abrazo (embrace) and hailed the meeting as "a step towards the consolidation of objectives" of their respective movements. De la Cruz said Aduviri "is against big mining and supports small mining." Peru's pro-business website eeé (for Economy & Energy with Ethics [sic]) on reporting the meeting, added: "Peruvians are now notified of this new alliance of terror and violence, between Tankar Rau Rau Amaru (Hernán de la Cruz) and Walter Aduviri."
An open letter from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) Nov. 22 outlined an "Indigenous and Popular Peace Proposal" that they are demanding be taken up at the talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels now underway in Havana. The proposal stresses issues not on the agenda at Havana, including the territorial autonomy and traditional authority of Colombia's indigenous peoples. Indigenous leaders will convene a meeting next month to advance the proposal and press demands for openinig the peace process to popular participation. The meeting will be held at the village of La María de Piendamó, Cauca department, which has been declared a "territory of peace and dialogue."
On Nov. 9, the Costa Rica-based Latin American Water Tribunal, an oversight body on environmental justice formed by jurists and specialists from across the hemisphere in 1998, issued a judgment calling on Peru to cancel the controversial Conga mining project in northern Cajamarca region, finding numerous irregularities in its approval. The ruling, issued in a public hearing in Buenos Aires, questioned the objectivity of Peru's Environment Ministry (MINAM) and Naitonal Water Authority (ANA) in the case; condemned the criminalization and repression of social movements in Cajamarca; and called upon Peru to uphold access to water as an internationally recognized human right. (Celendín Libre, GRUFIDES, Nov. 9)
A delegation of some 60 members of the Yukpa indigenous group from Venezuela's western Sierra de Perijá held a rally in Caracas Nov. 7, protesting violent aggression against their communities by cattle ranchers who covet their traditional lands near the Colombian border. Community leaders charged that seven Yukpa men have been have been killed this year at the hands of ranchers or their sicarios (hired assassins) in the municipality of Machiques, Zulia state. Ironically, the violence escalted after the government granted Yukpa communities title to their traditional lands last December. Ranchers claim they never received the 250 million bolivars ($58 million) pledged them by the government as compensation for contested lands. "The title to the land has been granted to us, but it hasn't been enforced because the cattle ranchers still live on our territory, and there are still massacres occurring in our community," said Yukpa leader Zenaida Romero, who still carries a bullet from a recent attack. The Yukpa are demanding direct talks with Minister of Indigenous Peoples Aloha Nuñez to resolve the issue.