MAC: Mines and Communities

Peru - Piura Votes, A Dangerous Precedent - Piura, un año después: el miedo a la democracia

Published by MAC on 2008-09-22

Peru's Andeans Celebrate Mining Rejection Despite Torture, Killings


10th September 2008

Campesinos and townsfolk from Ayabaca and outlying rural communities in the Piuran Cordillera are celebrating the first anniversary of their citizen referendum rejecting the open-pit mining projects proposed for this Andean region.

Since September 1, they have been participating in a series of conservation talks and festivities centered around enhancing public appreciation for the unique cloud forests and treeless paramos that remain here and their vital role in supplying water for humans and wildlife.

These include many plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth and the majority of Peru's few remaining, critically endangered mountain tapirs, a species highlighted throughout the events.

The festivities will culminate on September 16, the actual date of the 2007 referendum by which 95 percent of citizens voted to reject the mining projects seeking gold, silver, copper, and molybdenum that would alter their environment.

Many Andeans depend upon radio communication as their window to the outside world. Public addresses and discussions concerning the conservation and ecology of this region and how these would be affected by the mining proposals are being broadcast from Ayabaca's major radio station.

Local conservationist Alejandro Zegarra, with support from the Andean Tapir Fund, will be making several public and radio addresses. Though mining interests have sought to minimize the importance of the referendum, its validity is grounded in Peru's national constitution and is a public reaffirmation of the power of ordinary citizens.

Conservationists here, however, remain on guard to prevent the type of violent repression they have experienced from the mining companies and their well-heeled and aggressive supporters.

Today, more than 300 residents of Piura state are being investigated under charges of terrorism for exercising their rights as citizens to vocally oppose the mining projects that threaten diminishing wildlife populations, their water supply and their way of life.

Additionally, dozens of Piuran citizens are imprisoned for protesting the mining proposals and for insisting upon the enforcement of laws governing environmental protection and the upholding of community and individual rights, including those concerning property and the right of citizens to determine their own future.

Their community leaders have been accused of terrorism by the mining companies and by Peruvian President Alan Garcia.

Mining companies and their employees have unsuccessfully offered local citizens bribes to accept mining, but protest roadblocks leading into the mining concessions remain in place.

According to many local sources, mining protesters have suffered social, economic and even physical repression from mining company employees and government authorities.

Protesters have been harassed, beaten, and jailed. Some have been killed and their bodies buried in remote areas, according to local media reports.

One opposition leader, agrarian engineer Reemberto Herrera Racho, was killed in 2004, as was the protest leader Melanio Garcia Gonzales in 2005.

Huancabamba community director Benito Guamizo witnessed Garcia fall dead from a rifle bullet. Immediately, his corpse was taken by the police and all evidence for a judicial case vanished.
Mining protester Javier Neira lost his right eye.

Thirty campesinos were kidnapped and tortured for three days in the Majaz mining encampment. The right eye of protester Javier Neira was destroyed by a blow with the butt of a pistol.

Over 200 campesinos were charged for invading lands in their own municipalities.

Witnesses claim that both the Peruvian national police and security forces of the Majaz Mining Company perpetrated these attacks, whose victims continue to suffer painful symptoms.

In 2005, an American doctor from Physicians for Human Rights, who declined to be named for this report, came upon 28 tortured campesinos who had been detained against their will in the Majaz mining encampment. Since then he has been treating these campesinos and attests their long-term suffering, both physical and psychological, caused by extreme tear gas attacks, blows from heavy clubs, knife cuts, exposure to toxic substances, asphyxiation, sleep deprivation, nudity and sexual violations and whippings.

In this case, official charges have been brought before the Piuran police by Peru's national coordinator for human rights. Charges of kidnapping, torture and homicide are leveled against the security forces of the Majaz Mining Company and against officers of the national police.

But Piuran and Cajamarcan communities were encouraged in August when the Peruvian Congress voted to rescind a development plan for Peru's portion of the Amazon Basin. This plan called for a massive step-up in logging and mining projects, including oil extraction.

Congress declared as unconstitutional various Legislative Decrees, including 1015 and 1073 that would have opened up remaining Amazonian forests to development at the expense of the natural ecosystem and the indigenous people who live there.

Since the Piuran Cordillera is a vital part of the Amazon headwaters, the cancellation of the open-pit mining concessions here by the federal government may now ensue.

Much destruction has already taken place. In a speech March 2 at an ecological forum in Piura, Huancabamba community director Benito Guamizo testified that Majaz employees had already destroyed hundreds of hectares by constructing roads, though the company has only an exploration license.

Guamizo said the mining company has eliminated a significant portion of the remnant Andean forests upon which mountain tapirs, spectacled bears and other rare species depend in this area.

The paramos and cloud forests of Yanta and Tapal in Ayabaca province, Segunda-Cajas in Huancabamba, and adjacent communities both in Piura and Cajamarca states have evolved in a unique way, ecologists say.

The paramos are glacier-formed valleys and plains with a large variety of lakes, peat bogs and wet grasslands intermingled with shrublands and forest patches occurring between the upper forest line, about 3,800 meters high, and the permanent snow line, which begins at about 5,000 meters.

These ecosystems are situated near the lowest pass of the 4,600 mile long Andes are they are rich in biodiversity. Recent field studies conducted by Peru's Natural History Museum have identified at least 1,695 species occurring here, including 374 birds and 61 mammals.

They are inhabited by most of Peru's remaining mountain tapirs, Tapirus pinchaque, that number just a few hundred, ecologists estimate. The largest mammal in the tropical Andes, the mountain tapir is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Peru lists the mountain tapir as in "critical danger of extinction" so its presence in this area should by law cancel the open-pit, heap-leach mining concessions that would ruin its remaining habitat. These concessions threaten many thousands of hectares of remnant cloud forest and paramos.

Several new species have been discovered this year, and conservationist Zegarra reports a newly found population of the Peruvian Huemul, Hippocamelus antisensis, known locally as taruca, a small member of the deer family.

Ecologists with the Andean Tapir Fund working here have documented hundreds of endangered plant and animal species that are listed in the IUCN Red List and/or Peru's national endangered species list.

The Andean Tapir Fund has compiled extensive species inventories of these plants and animals and is presenting these to local, national and international officials in order to create the Cerro Negro Nature Sanctuary encompassing remaining cloud forests and paramos.

This initiative has gained the support of local communities, and a General Assembly is expected to soon allow local citizens to legally declare this sanctuary. However, exact boundaries and maps with ecological overlays need to be prepared and for this the Andean Tapir Fund is seeking financial support and professional collaboration.

Piura Votes, A Dangerous Precedent

Jennifer Moore

16th September 2008

One year ago today, a local vote was held concerning possible mining activity in three highland districts in northwestern Peru. The referendum drew thousands of peasant farmers, many of whom traveled for the best part of a day by horse, truck or on foot to mark their ballot "yes" or "no."

"We are here to say 'no' to this mining project," said one young woman from the El Carmen de la Frontera district, close to the northern border with Ecuador. "And we would like the government to respect the decisions that we are making here."

"We are defending our water and land for our children and grandchildren," she stated, speaking to a film crew from Guarango Cine y Video.

This week, people in the districts of Ayabaca, Pacaipampa and El Carmen de la Frontera are commemorating last year's impressive results: about 60% of the electorate participated and 94.5% said "no."

But one year later, the government of President Alan Garcia still refuses to recognize the results. "There is no reason that this project shouldn't go through," said Garcia to members of the Zijin Mining Consortium during his trip to China in March.

Zijin is the major shareholder in Rio Blanco Copper S.A. (formerly Minera Majaz S.A.). UK-based Monterrico Metals also maintains an interest in the project that is hoped to reach production by 2011. It could be the start of a large scale mining district reaching across the Ecuadorian border.

Garcia's statement, however, not only ignores last year's decision but also dismisses reports from several national institutions that declare the project illegal and in violation of the project's own environmental plan.

In the lead up to the vote, the Ombudsman's Office reported that the project was illegal. They cited the company's lack of the two-thirds approval from assemblies of the two campesino communities on whose land the copper and molybdenum mineral exploration activities would take place, as required by Peruvian law.

In early 2008, the Supervisory Body for Private Investments in Energy and Mines (OSINERGMIN) sanctioned the company for not meeting its environmental commitments to the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

But despite social and environmental red flags, the government has insisted "on radical neoliberal and centralizing policies inevitably [leading] to political polarization and the deepening of social conflicts," comments Rafael Hoetmer from the Democracy and Global Transformation Program in Lima and one of about two dozen international observers who attended the Piura vote last year.

Stalemate between government and communities

Dialogue broke down between the government and communities after it had just begun. In December 2007, Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo walked out from one of the first meetings with the Front for Sustainable Development on the Northern Border of Peru (FDSFNP) because they wanted the referendum results to be on the agenda.

But the government had already signaled that productive discussions would be difficult. It tried to boycott the referendum and have it declared illegal. It had also signed a stability agreement with the company and included the Rio Blanco Project in a proposed bill to congress designating it and nineteen other mining projects as national priorities. While the bill failed to pass, the conflict continued.

After Castillo walked out, the Front - which represents communities, social organizations and municipalities of Piura as well as potentially affected areas of the neighbouring department of Cajamarca - decided to reaffirm their decision opposing mining and favouring an agricultural-based economy.

In what they called "The March of Sacrifice," community members walked for six days from the municipality of Ayabaca to the capital of Piura.

"We have been very clear," Hoetmer wrote, quoting Magdiel Carrión, President of the Provincial Federation of Farmer Communities of Ayabaca (FEPROCCA), "We do not want mining in our communities. It contaminates the water, creates conflicts, and doesn't even bring us sustainable development."

"As communities we have our own development model based on farming, ecotourism and our social organization. We have the same rights as the people of Lima and all other Peruvians. Both Peruvian and international law recognises the democratic right of communities to decide their own future."

The company and criminalization

As part of a broader effort to repress the mining opposition, government and company supporters have criminalized the struggle in Piura.

According to an August report published by the Peruvian Observatory of Mining Conflicts, around 300 people involved in mining conflicts in Piura are currently facing charges. In the most notable case, thirty-five people involved in the promotion or organization of last year's referendum face allegations of various crimes, including terrorism. According to the Environmental Defender Law Centre (EDLC), the charges have been brought by a "shadowy organization" called the Front of Unity for the Campesino Community of Segunda y Cajas.

"Let's make no mistake what's going on here," comments Lewis Gordon lawyer and director of EDLC, "it's a politically motivated effort by those who are unhappy about the activities of the leaders and others trying to stop the mine or the mining activities."

Peruvian critics allege that the Front, whose name refers to one of two peasant farmer communities whose land pertains to the Rio Blanco project, is receiving money from the company and is made up of known company supporters.

The accusations it made were presented as a set of newspaper clippings, which Gordon calls "vague" and "very troubling to the extent that they allege criminal acts, but don't indicate that the 35 participated or are in anyway connected to those acts other than the fact that those people were part of the anti-mining opposition itself."

A recent analysis carried out by a group of US and UK lawyers was presented to the Prosecutor responsible for the case and looked at a range of possible charges, including terrorism, based on the facts as they understand them. It concluded that the 35 could not be prosecuted under US or UK criminal law and that prosecuting the individuals based on the current facts would violate international human rights law. Peru has ratified a number of agreements, including the American Convention on Human Rights.

"The real threat of these efforts and the impact they potentially have is to deter people from exercising their rights and to deter a debate on matters of extreme public interest, where everyone should be able to express their views and let the battle of ideas and participation decide the issue, instead of just trying to stop one group from participating in that debate."

Decreeing collective rights away

A broad array of new legislation passed from January to June 2008 also threatening a more inclusive process pertaining to development in Peru. President Garcia issued over one hundred decrees during this period for the purpose of implementing the new Free Trade Agreement with the US. "At least forty decrees concern issues related to peasant and native communities and natural resources," reports the UK-based Peru Support Group (PSG).

In part these imply "that the 'prior agreement' of the landowner regarding how property will be used - for instance, for mining - is no longer necessary," says the bulletin from PSG. "Companies...could develop activities by simply gaining approval of the Ministry for Energy and Mines (MINEM)."

"Peasant communities, or other owners, would therefore no longer decide the fate of their lands."

In August, indigenous groups led a twelve-day strike in the Peruvian Northern Amazon in protest of these laws. Ulises Garcia observes that their demands "are effectively in defense of the right to consultation," noting a relationship to the struggle taking place in Piura.

Garcia is the son of Godofredo Garcia Baca, who was assassinated shortly before the first local vote over mining took place in Tambogrande in 2002. Tambogrande is an agro-export area in the lowlands of Piura. He continues to support ecological networks that assisted in the more recent vote in the eastern highlands.

The Amazonian protests concluded when Peru's Parliament repealed two laws that were, according to Pulsar News Service, seen to be "opening the door for privatization of ancestral territories." Garcia calls it "a victory for this struggle."

A peaceful and democratic solution

The conflict in Piura emerged in 2004 and had already led to the deaths of two area residents when the local vote took place. When the decision to call a local vote was taken, community members hoped that a democratic expression of local opinion could provide a peaceful solution.

But at the moment, Garcia says that the situation in Piura has deteriorated. "Both sides are desperate. There is no development and no peace."

"The communities in particular," he says, "are in urgent need of legal support." In addition to the multitude of charges they are facing, communities have also sued the company for usurpation of their lands. But this case is moving along very slowly.

Tension is also rising in other parts of the region, as companies start to reassert their interest in gold mining in places like Tambogrande, where the 2002 vote resulted in 98% rejection of mining, with the participation of 75% of the electorate.

In fact, the Ombudsman's Office reported in July that mining has contributed to a rising number of socio-environmental conflicts, which have doubled since last year. About sixty mining-related conflicts now exist across Peru.

On a more hopeful note, Garcia adds that groups have been strengthened by the results of the vote and are "demanding respect for their decision in a peaceful manner." Over the past year, they have also been working on their own processes of participatory development planning.

But, he assesses, they pose a great risk to the Peruvian government and its model of development, possibly beyond its own borders. He says that "recognition of the results," in reference to similar votes that have taken place in Argentina and Guatemala, "would lead to the possibility of more votes. Not just in Peru, but in all of Latin America."

Jennifer Moore is an independent Canadian journalist living in Ecuador.

Pobladores reafirman su rechazo a la actividad minera Majaz

Provincia de Ayabaca realiza festividad al recordar aniversario de consulta vecinal sobre minería

17 de setiembre del 2008 -

Provincia de Ayabaca, Diario El Regional de Piura

Setiembre,17,2008.- Ayabaca. Ayer se conmemora el aniversario de la consulta vecinal realizado entorno a la actividad minera Río Blanco (Majaz). Centenares de pobladores de Ayabaca se movilizaron desde las 10 de la mañana para expresar su rechazo a la actividad minera en la zona, que concluyó en un mitin en la Plaza de Armas de Ayabaca, los pobladores hicieron sentir el rechazo manifestado el 16 de septiembre de 2007, donde el 97% de comuneros de los distritos de Ayabaca, Carmen de la Frontera y Pacaipampa dijeron NO a minera Majaz.

El mitin estuvo liderado por el alcalde de Ayabaca, Humberto Marchena, participaron Magdiel Carrión, Presidente de la Federación de la Rondas Campesinas, Segundo Ramos, alcalde de Tambogrande, entre otros dirigentes y presidentes de rondas campesinas de Yanta, Chocan, otros.

Humberto Marchena sostuvo que los resultados de la consulta deben respetarse. "Hace un año, el gobierno de Alan García trató de evitar a cualquier precio la consulta vecinal convocadas por nuestras municipalidades distritales ante un pedido amplio de las comunidades y de la población, sin embargo poco o nada pudo hacer porque el pueblo unido se mantuvo firme e hizo respetar sus derechos, dijo.

"Hoy, un año después nuestra población sigue unida con el mismo proposito, decir no a la mina y exigir respeto a nuestra decisión, porque la consulta es LEGAL y sus resultados deben ser respetados y cumplidos, sostuvo Marchena.

Con respecto a la denuncia por usurpación de funciones presentado por el Jurado Nacional de Elecciones, manifestó que los tres alcaldes que convocaron a la consulta salieron absueltos.

A su turno el alcalde de Tambogrande, Segundo Ramos, exigió al gobierno respetar el modelo de desarrollo que decidieron sus pueblos a través de la consulta vecinal, "el Estado debe apoyar a las Asociaciones de productores agrarios que ya exportan al extranjero, a nuestros proyectos comunales de agricultura y ganadería y al impulso de nuestro turismo ecológico y esotérico, señaló.

Ramos dijo que el proceso de ordenamiento territorial iniciado debe respetar la decisión de un modelo de desarrollo sostenible basado en la agricultura, la agroexportación, la ganadería y el turismo.

Cabe señalar que las actividades tanto en Ayabaca como en Huancabamba se vienen desarrollando en forma simultánea.

Septiembre 16, 2008 - PERÚ

Perú - Piura, un año después: El Miedo A La Democracia

Por Wilfredo Ardito Vega

Adital - Este 16 de septiembre se cumple un año de la jornada cívica realizada en Ayabaca y Huancabamba, donde miles de ciudadanos caminaron durante horas, pernoctaron en plazas e hicieron cola bajo la lluvia ante los centros de votación para expresar su rechazo a la actividad minera.

Entonces como ahora, la agresiva oposición de los funcionarios del gobierno y diversos medios de comunicación hacia la consulta vecinal muestra la debilidad con que han sido asumidos valores como la democracia y la igualdad por las mismas élites peruanas que presumen de su modernidad.

De hecho, resulta sorprendente que un régimen que se proclama democrático descalifique a tres alcaldes simplemente por convocar a los ciudadanos a expresar su punto de vista. Ensayemos una explicación: los campesinos y las autoridades de Ayabaca y Huancabamba consideraban y consideran que democracia implica gobernar respetando los intereses del pueblo y escuchando lo que piensa. Se trata de una concepción de democracia participativa, muy arraigada en el Perú, como se advierte en las comunidades campesinas y nativas.

En cambio, el gobierno de García, como antes Toledo, Fujimori o Belaúnde, tiene una concepción de democracia delegativa en la que un mandatario tiene cinco años de libertad para actuar según les parezca y a la población le corresponde simplemente obedecer. Desde esta percepción, una consulta vecinal resulta un "acto subversivo", porque sólo el gobierno está facultado para decidir lo que afecta a los ciudadanos.

A esto se añade que uno de los principios fundamentales de la democracia, la igualdad entre los ciudadanos, en realidad tiene muy poca aceptación entre los peruanos con mayor poder. Recordemos que, en aquellos mismos meses, cuando se promovía el proyecto de ley que buscaba incorporar el uso de idiomas indígenas en la administración pública, la congresista Martha Hildebrandt declaró que no discutiría con quienes "no eran iguales a ella". En otro país, su actitud prepotente y altanera habría generado que fuera sancionada u obligada a renunciar.

En esa misma línea, un empresario piurano sostuvo por entonces que los campesinos no tenían criterio para decidir, porque eran como "niños de cinco años". Expresiones similares han proferido el actual Ministro de Defensa ("llamas y vicuñas") y el ex Primer Ministro Pedro Pablo Kuczinsky ("la falta de oxígeno les afecta el cerebro"), cuando los campesinos podían tener un punto de vista diferente al de ellos en un proceso electoral.

Desde esta percepción, se podía insistir en que "detrás de la consulta" está todo tipo de azuzadores, sean curas, senderistas, ONGs, Hugo Chávez o Al Qaeda. Aún la hipótesis más delirante era preferible a aceptar que un campesino podía pensar por sí mismo.

Además, principios que un régimen democrático debería defender como la libertad de expresión, la participación política o la seguridad jurídica pasan totalmente a segundo plano, cuando amenazan a un régimen que gobierna para satisfacer los intereses de una minoría afortunada, sin molestarse siquiera en pretender ocultarlo como intentaban sus predecesores.

Los campesinos de Ayabaca y Huancabamba consideran que antes que el gobierno pretenda otorgar una concesión minera o petrolera, debe haberse escuchado a los habitantes de la zona afectada. Su consulta se basó en el precedente de Tambogrande, cuyos habitantes en junio del 2002 rechazaron abrumadoramente las pretensiones de la empresa Manhattan y en estos cinco años han logrado que sus cultivos de limón y mango les generen cada vez mayores ingresos.

Sin embargo, los empresarios mineros rechazan que pudiera darse un ordenamiento territorial planificado para disponer en cuáles lugares puede realizarse actividad minera y en cuáles no. Bajo esa mentalidad, la consulta vecinal era aberrante y debía ser desacreditada a toda costa.

Con esa intención, se difundió que tras la consulta de Tambogrande, los cultivos habían quedado arrasados por la minería artesanal. El propio gobierno usó esos argumentos, así como ocultó que Majaz ocupa ilegalmente los terrenos de dos comunidades.

En ese mismo afán, se llegó a decir que una empresa china con dos meses operando en el Perú representa nada menos que "el interés nacional" y que los campesinos a punto de ser despojados son individuos egoístas. Resulta ingenuo pensar que la empresa tenga otro interés, además de maximizar sus ganancias.

Podría señalarse que efectivamente habrá más ingresos fiscales, pero los campesinos no tienen mayores ilusiones de lo que pueda hacer el régimen con ello: después de todo, en una democracia delegativa, puede destinar todo el dinero que desee a bombas lacrimógenas y al pago de la deuda externa, a costa de mantener reducida la inversión social. En el probable caso que Ayabaca, Huancabamba o las provincias vecinas sufran daños ambientales, les quedaría sólo la resignación, porque las multas que impone OSINERGMIN se destinan a esta institución, que no sabe ejecutar el dinero que recibe, como, recientemente, el propio Ministro de Economía ha señalado

El año pasado, el 16 de septiembre, los habitantes de Ayabaca y Huancabamba dieron el un ejemplo de compromiso por el medio ambiente, la construcción de la democracia y la dignidad de los peruanos. Este año, todos los que convocaron la consulta han sido denunciados por terrorismo y se encuentran procesados de manera absurda, lo cual evidencia una vez más la falta de escrúpulos de la empresa Majaz.

¿Cómo se celebrarán los siguientes aniversarios de esta consulta? Para los campesinos, pese a los recientes Decretos Legislativos, pese a los procesos judiciales, es más fuerte la confianza que tienen en sí mismos, que el temor a la ambición y el autoritarismo.

* Abogado. Master en Derecho Internacional de los DH. Catedrático universitario. Miembro de la Mesa para la No Discriminación de la Coordinadora Nacional de DH. Resp. de Derechos Sociales, Económicos y Culturales de APRODEH

A un año de consulta popular, aún sufren acusaciones en venganza por decirle no al poder económico.

Ayabaca rechaza a García y mineras

Firmeza en rechazar los abusos de las mineras así tengan aval estatal.
Leonardo Caballero

Enviado Especial

Lima, 17 de Setiembre del 2008

Olivares Gonza Rivera, representante del Colectivo Defensa del Medio Ambiente de Ayabaca, acusó al gobierno central de haberse puesto al servicio del poder empresarial minero. "El gobierno y la minera controlan varios medios de comunicación como el diario Correo", declaró.

Con una marcha multitudinaria en las calles de la ciudad de Ayabaca se celebró ayer el primer aniversario de la consulta vecinal de los distritos Pacaypampa, Carmen de la Frontera y Ayabaca, la cual reveló 93% de rechazo a la explotación minera que atenta contra el medio ambiente de la región.

Gremios estudiantiles, rondas campesinas y pobladores conmemoraron así aquel 16 de septiembre, en el que la compañía minera Río Blanco Cooper S. A. (ex Majaz) fue rechazada unánimemente mediante una consulta vecinal organizada por ellos y pese a la oposición del Ejecutivo.

Humberto Marchena, alcalde provincial de Ayabaca, afirmó que la marcha era en honor del triunfo obtenido por las comunidades campesinas en las urnas. Por su parte, Tony Alberca, del colectivo Juventud Organizada en Defensa de la Ecología Regional (JODER) manifestó que la juventud de las comunidades afectadas por la minería han tomado conciencia del peligro en sus tierras y pidió que Río Blanco siga sin tener licencia.

La minera Río Blanco está operando en las tierras de las comunidades de Yanta, Segunda y Cajas, a pesar de que la fase de exploración acabó en el 2007.

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