Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Crisis in Cusco, Andahuaylas and La Oroya: Simon confronts social convulsion

Angie Lineth Villarroel & Víctor Cachay

The worn out traveling fire-fighter, prime minister Yehude Simon, will travel today to Andahuaylas and later to Sicuani, to try and put out the fires of discontent that are spreading to become a social convulsion – which he insists on attributing to a supposed extremist conspiracy. Although he has moved forward his trip, once again he will arrive late, as the protests in the South have reached the point of overflowing. Andahuaylas remains paralyzed and Cusco, where campesinos from Canchis were on the verge of taking over the airport guarded by Army troops, is virtually encircled

And its not only in the South, as the central highway is blocked by miners from Doe Run in La Oroya, protesting because the company has not complied with its promises and the State has done nothing to put it in its place and protect the interests of the country and the workers.

In the face of the social protests experienced in Andahuaylas and Cusco, Simon will travel to the city of Andahuaylas, in Apurímac province and tomorrow he will continue on to the Sicuani locality near Cusco, to dialogue with the residents and avoid giving rise to another tragedy like of Bagua, [1] which campesino leaders have warned could happen again if official inattention persists

Thousands of residents from Canchis and other provinces arrived yesterday in Cusco chanting phrases such as “if there is no solution, there is no Inti Raymi,” [2], with the aim of making the government attend to their demands. As a result, the Presidency of the Cabinet (PCM) announced that at 7:30am on Wednesday, the cabinet chief would leave from the Cusco to the city of Sicuani, where he will also hold talks with the campesinos about their opposition to the Law of Water Resources, to mining concessions and the construction of the Salca-Pucará hydroelectric plant.

In relation to this, the president of the Regional Assembly of Cusco, Efraín Yépez, speaking to La Primera, said the decision of the prime minister was opportune and important because the Inti Raymi festival attracts thousands of tourists every year on June 24 and influences the economy of the country and of Cusco. He said that the campesinos had to appeal to pressure in order to be heard.

The president of the regional government of Cusco, Hugo Gonzales, in the absence of the executive, when the campesinos from Canchis had entered Cusco and threatened to take over the airport – where a bloody confrontation could have occurred – held a dialogue with them and promised the support of his administration for their demands and later assured that the Inti Raymi festival and activities connected with it would unfold as normal. He said that he met with Alejo Valdez, president of the Canchis Struggle Committee after the demonstrators arrived at Cusco around noon and then remained at Pachacútec Oval, and though they tried to enter to the airport, they were dissuaded through dialogue.

He added that if the people of Canchis do not want the construction of the Salca-Pucará hydroelectric plant, then the project would not be carried out, despite the loss of a $350 million investment. Canchis peasant leader Valeriano Ccama, confirmed the dialogue and demanded the liberty of some demonstrators in order to begin a truce and to wait for the premier, but warned, "the Inti Raymi is still at risk".

Andahuaylas waits

Meanwhile, in Andahuaylas, Eugenio Allcca Díaz representative of the Campesino Community Front, rejected comments by the government and the official press that aimed to link the protest with violent groups and denied the intervention of political parties in financing the mobilizations. “Some of the media wants to discredit our peaceful demonstration, all of us traveled here by our own means,” he said, mentioning that they will not accept the intervention of anyone who is not the Cabinet Chief, who they will make respect their platform of struggle to the end.

Simon will leave today at 8.30am from Lima to the city in the Apurímac region and hold a dialogue over fixing the Ayacucho-Andahuaylas-Abancay highway, one of the central demands of the strike, as well as the Law of Water Resources, which is also rejected by the people of Andahuaylas. Meanwhile thousands of residents await the arrival of the prime minister, gathered in the Feria Dominical on the banks of the River Chumbao.

Miners close entrance road to Lima

More than three thousand mine workers for the Doe Run Company began an indefinite strike in the early hours of yesterday in La Oroya with the total blockade of a highway, due to the disinterest of the company in resolving their union demands. The protest was agreed to after an assembly of delegates and counts on support from the local population.

The blockade of the road stretches 8 kms before and after the entrance to La Oroya, due to the hundreds of vehicles stranded there, while shops as well as private and public companies were closed in endorsement of the mobilization. The show of force is in response to the announcement of the closing of the installations of the foundry and metal refinery. The Doe Run workers union and the residents of La Oroya also reject the proposal of the company to pay only 50% of the remunerations owed to the workers, the union demands that 80% be paid within 90 days.

The company stopped all production at the beginning of the month, four months after the banks cut credit for its operations as a result of the global [economic] crisis. Then it announced it was going to suspend its employees for 90 days, a decision that brought about the strike. The secretary general of the metalworkers of Doe Run, Roberto Guzmán, called for the intervention of the state for the immediate reactivation of the company.

“All the entrances are blocked. We hold the mining company responsible for the consequences of the protests,” the mayor of Yauli- La Oroya province César Gutiérrez, said.


The demonstrators are located 48 km from Corcona. There are three points of the road that are blocked, the exits of Lima, Huancayo and Chanchamayo, miners are waiting for their demands to be resolved while the highway police have tried to persuade them to clear the road. “We call on the government and the authorities of the mining company to avoid repression. We demand compliance with the [collective] contract,” said Washington García, secretary general of the Doe Run union.

Carlos Herrera, dean of the Engineers College of Peru, said that measures related to Doe Run should have been taken a long time ago and stressed that, “the law must be applied, the state cannot continue letting the company do what it likes.”

In the face of this situation, the government has said that it does not have plans to intervene in the Doe Run mining company as a solution to save it from financial collapse, as the workers have been demanding. “An intervention of the government would be very complicated in terms of responsibilities and financial consequences, because is very probable that, in a situation like this, what we would face are international claims”, indicated the minister of Energy and Mines, Pedro Sánchez, in a statement that could further destabilize the situation.

National Day of Struggle confirmed

The General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) has called a national day of struggle for July 8, calling for an end to the persecution launched by the government against social and political leaders, above all indigenous leaders, as well as a solution to the labour and social demands of different sectors at a national level, Moisés Vega, organisation secretary of the union federation, said yesterday.

A general assembly of delegates agreed to the new protest measure, in place of a national strike that had previously been agreed to in solidarity with the struggles of the indigenous people of the Amazon.

Vega told La Primera, that another point of agreement is the demand for the resignation of the entire cabinet presided over by Yehude Simon, who the social organizations consider responsible for the crisis experienced through out the country in recent weeks, and for the massacre in Bagua in which at least 34 people died.

In relation to the protests in the South-Andean region, Vega indicated that the CGPT also was responding to the demands of the campesino unions, which still have not been resolved by the government, which is why the campesino unions are persisting in their decision to hold a strike from July 7-9.


Luis Castillo, secretary general of the Miners Federation, told La Primera, that his union would be present in the national day of struggle called by the CGPT and announced it would hold an emergency assembly in La Oroya by the end of the month.

He added that in the meeting the miners would debate new protest measures against the delay by Congress in approving the Law of Mining Pensions, that has already obtained preliminary approval, but is on hold due a call for reconsideration by congressperson Rafael Yamashiro (UN)


[1] The massacre of indigenous protesters by Special Forces troops near the town of Bagua over June 5-6
[2] The annual Inti Raymi festival

Translated by Kiraz Janicke, original in Spanish published at La Primera

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