MAC: Mines and Communities

CONACAMI President Denounces State Political Persecution

Published by MAC on 2005-09-01

CONACAMI President Denounces State Political Persecution

01 Sep 2005


Lima - The president of the National Confederacion of Communities Affected by Mining in Peru (CONACAMI -, Miguel Palacín, spoke out today against a "political persecution on the part of the State" after being notified that an investigation is being launched against him for incidents of violence near a mining camp.

"There is an alliance between the State and the mining companies. We are asking for protective measures for our leadership," said Palacín in a meeting with foreign journalists, in which he said that the CONCAMI neither has political pretensions nor supports the violence.

A judge in the town of Huancabamba, Edwin Culquincóndor, opened on Wednesday a court process against Palacín and 32 "ronderos" (campesinos legally armed to confront guerrillas and paramilitaries), for the disturbances which occured in the beginning of last month in the British mine Majaz, which left one dead and material losses.

"The trials are advancing and the leaders are frequently persecuted. There is a campaign against us, the media is participating, they are often paid by the mining companies. But we are acting in a legal manner, and there is not proof against us because there have been no acts against the law," affirmed the campesino leader.

The opening of the legal investigation revived the polemics again in CONACAMI, an organization made up of representatives of 1,650 communities which are affected by mining, and which has participated in many of the protests against mining which have occured in the past months in Perú.

Some mining companies, government spokespersons and the press have accused CONACAMI of being against all mining activity, of defending ideological positions and of working with radical political groups such as the party Patria Roja (maoist) or the Movimiento Ethnocacerista (ultra-nationalist), accusations rejected by Palacín.

"We are not in favor of violence. On the contrary, we reject it. We do not have any association with any party. There are different hues, and members with a diversity of thought".

To Palacín, the objective CONACAMI is the protection of communities affected by mining, be it for the environmental impact that mining generates or for the lack of respect by companies for the culture and needs of the habitants of each region, generally dedicated to agriculture. This, says the leader, does not imply a rejection a priori of mining, rather to the practices of doing such without respect to the communities and environment. However, he points out that there are places which because of their geographic location are not apt for mining, such as in the case of Majaz, situated in an important ecological basin, headwaters to the rivers Blanco and Quiroz.

According to studies of CONACAMI, 16 of the 53 river basins in Perú already suffer from the environmental impacts of mining, a sum which often doesn`t take into account the cultural impacts: "To open a pit in thehighest mountain, the Apu, is like tearing a hole in the Cathedral of Lima to the catholics," pointed outPalacín.

With respect to their funding, Palacín says that the group is funded by only three non governmental organizations: Oxfam, of the United States, the Danish Ibis, and Belgian 11-11-11. There is no government suport nor support from any other non-declared sources.

"We have about $100,000 for eight regions. The highest salaries are 500 dollars, and the leaders that do the political work don't receive anything," says the leader in response to the insinuations that media sources have made alleging that the organization has a solid economic position.

Despite his insistance that CONACAMI doesn't constitute its own political project nor is it identified with any political party, Palacín admits that it is working a project of increasing a base in the indigenous communities, already strong in the quechua and aymara, but with eyes on the 72 indigenous groups in the country.

"The peoples are advancing in their thinking, in their demands," he emphasized, although making clear that this does not carry any intention of separatism, because "this would go against the history and the reality today."

According to CONACAMI, of the 5,860 campesino communities of Perú, 3,200 are in regions of potential mining. Of these, 1,200 already have exploration works, and another 250 are already being actively mined.

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