Some 4,000 campesino protesters again converged on the Conga mine site in Peru's northern Cajamarca region June 18, pledging to establish an encampment around Laguna El Perol and remain there to prevent its destruction. The Yanacocha mining company, after announcing that it would begin diverting the lake's waters to an artificial reservoir to permit mining on the site, last week reversed itself and said this work would begin next year. But protest leaders say they believe destruction of the lake is imminent. At press time, the protesters are facing off with some 1,000 troops from the National Police Special Operations Division (DINOES).
World War 4 Report editor Bill Weinberg, just back from Peru, will speak Friday June 28 at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), 155 Ave. C between 9th and 10th Streets, on New York's Lower East Side. The talk and slide show will focus on struggles for urban space in Lima (community centers, squats, gardens); the movement for legalization of coca leaf, and against US-led eradication efforts; and peasant struggles for land and water against US mineral companies in the Andes. There will also be a report on recent protests in Lima against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, with a representative from NY Metro Trade Justice. The presentation will begin promptly at 7:00 PM.
On June 4 Bolivia's Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon presided at a meeting in Sucre that brought together the country's leading jurists, including members of the Constitutional Tribunal, with traditional indigenous authorities from the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB), the Unitary Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Sindical Confederation of Intercultural Communities of Bolivia (CSCIB). At the meeting, aimed at hashing out a common position on indigenous autonomy as guaranteed by Bolivia's new constitution, conflict emerged over Ayllon's assertion that the guarantees should be applied to 36 ethnic groups. CONAMAQ's David Crispín asserted that there are actually 50 indigenous peoples and nationalities within Bolivia under the standards outlined in the constitution. CONAMAQ's legal authority Simón Antonio Cuiza offered to provide documentation for the claim to jurists and lawmakers, and work with them to truly establish Bolivia as a "plurinational state." (CONAMAQ via Facebook, June 7)
Jorge Merino, chief of Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines, responded on June 10 to reports in the media that the controversial gold project at Conga, in northern Cajamarca region, has been cancelled. The site, an extension of Newmont Mining's giant Yanacocha complex, remains under occupation by local campesinos, and clashes with police troops there have become frequent. "The information I have from the company is that they are making re-adjustments in Yanacocha and Conga," Merino said. "In agreement with the workers, there has been a reduction in the order of 50 workers who will be relocated, but I strongly deny that there is a position that Conga has intentions to leave. Conga continues... I have spoken with functionaries of Newmont, and the project is going ahead."
Indigenous leaders in Colombia's Cauca department last month exchanged letters with FARC commander Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" AKA "Timoleón Jiménez" to discuss a face-to-face dialogue over guerilla aggression against native peoples. "Timochenko" wrote to indigenous leaders on May 13, appealing to them "to reach understandings that will allow us satisfactorily to advance towards our mutual goals of peace and social justice." He denied recent accusations by native leaders that the FARC is complicit in the "genocide of the indigenous" of Cauca, and broached a personal meeting. The indigenous leaders reponded on May 16 with an open letter accepting the invitation to direct dialogue, but adding: "However, our communities want to see the dialogue does represent changes to our conditions; that you stop killing, accusing and dividing us." The letter protested the FARC's accusation that the indigenous leadership are a "counterinsurgency force."
After more than two weeks of tension, with a general strike by public-sector workers, roadblocks and episodes of violence, the Bolivian Workers' Central (COB) and the government of Evo Morales reached an accord May 21. Conflict around the strike, which began May 5, left at least 30 injured and more than 100 detained. COB demanded that the government double pensions, which currently range from $21 to $28 a month. COB called for reform of a pension law passed just three years ago, bringing pensions to the same level as monthly salaries, at least in the state mining sector. The government is now offering an 81% hike. The strike mostly affected the state-owned Huanuni tin mine in Oruro department—the country's largest, accounting for half the country's tin production—costing the government some $8 million. Mining is Bolivia's second foreign currency earner after natural gas. Silver is its largest metals export, followed by zinc and tin. (Mining Weekly, May 27; InfoBAE, May 22; AP, Reuters, May 17 May 16)
Four people are reported to have been killed in Bolivia last week by local residents acting in the name of "community justice." In Colquechaca, Potosí, a youth of 16 was buried alive by local Quechua residents after being accused of raping and killing a local woman. A district prosecutor reported that he was thrown alive into the same grave as his purported victim. Two men, 17 and 21, were reportedly burned alive at Tres Cruces, Potosí, accused of having killed a local taxi driver. The fourth fatality took place in an unnamed pueblo in the Chapare region of Cochabamba department, where an accused thief was beaten to death. "Community justice" is enshrined in Bolivia's new constitution, amid provisions instating local autonomy for indigenous peoples, but the government considers such incidents to be lynchings. (InfoBAE, NY Daily News, June 7)
Peru's National Penal Chamber on June 7 sentenced one of the last "historic" leaders of the Shining Path guerilla movement to life in prison on terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Florencio Flores Hala AKA "Comrade Artemio" raised his fist in defiance as the sentence was read at a naval base in Callao, where the trial was carried out under tight security. He said that he preferred the death penalty over life imprisonment, adding: "I have nothing to ask forgiveness for, I have nothing to regret." "Artemio," 51, was also fined 500 million soles ($183 million) in damages. Attorney Alfredo Crespo called the sentence a "political statement," and his client a "political prisoner." After the guerilla movement was crushed in the 1990s, "Artemio" retreated to the high jungles of the Upper Huallaga Valley, where he led remnant Sendero Luminoso forces in a local insurgency.