Monday, 5 April 2010

Police in Peru Killed Between 4 to 9 Miners During a National Strike against Government Decrees

Carlos A. Quiroz - Peruanista

April 4, 2010 - Between 4 to 9 people were killed today in Peru and about 17 were injured, after a clash between Peruvian police forces and informal miners blocking a main road, as part of a national strike against the Alan Garcia government's decrees intended to prevent informal gold mining.

The violence occurred early today Sunday April 4, 2010 as protesters blocked the Pan-American road in the small fishing town of Chala, located in the Arequipa region.

The government of Alan Garcia is trying to promote the formalization of between 60,000 to 100,000 informal miners who extract mostly gold in rivers and lakes of several provinces of Peru, producing between $600 to $840 million dollars in annual revenues.

According to the miners, they are also in support for a legal formalization but with rules that can promote their small businesses, something that is not accepted by the Garcia administration. There are not intentions for an open dialogue from the Peruvian government, that has chosen police repression instead.

The Prime minister of Peru, Javier Velasquez confirmed only one casualty but Peruvian radio station CPN and others covering the protests, said that at least four people were killed including 3 miners, a local civilian. About 7 police agents were injured in the attacks.

The national strike is organized by the organizations National Federation of Small Miners of Peru [Federación Nacional de Mineros Artesanales de Perú – FENAMARPE], and the Mining Federation of Madre de Dios [Federación Minera de Madre de Dios].

The FENAMARPE says in its website that more than 300,000 miners have started today “an indefinite strike” in the regions of Ayacucho, Arequipa, Apurímac, Lima, Piura, Ica, Puno, Cusco, Ancash, Huancavelica, Cerro de Pasco, Tacna, Huánuco, La Libertad, Cajamarca, Moquegua, Huancayo and Madre de Dios.

Rafael Seminario, one of the leaders of FENAMARPE said that at least nine people died this morning, after police shot the miners who were blocking the Pan-American road. The miners are demanding the approval of laws that will strength the small mining ventures, and that the government revokes decrees that “affect thousands of Peruvians that working in mining as their only way of living, in the poorest and most hidden regions of the country”.

The leftist blog Prensa Alternativa wrote that witnesses assured that “the police opened fire directly to the protesters”, killing Alejandro Llamoca Barriga (34), Edgar Mitma Wuilcarima (37), Arturo Zamaca Chiri (26) and Juan de Dios Larrea Huamaní (38). There could be more dead people, apparently hidden by the police at the local health care center, something yet to be confirmed.

According to BBC about 6,000 miners arrived from other regions to Chala , but other protests were also held in the coastal town of Nasca, and in the Amazonian regions of Madre de Dios, Cusco and Puno.

The Lima government has mobilized 6,400 police officers to avoid road blockades and other possible actions to be taken by the protesters, says Living in Peru adding:

Teódulo Medina Gutiérrez, from the Federation of Informal Miners, had explained that they want the repeal of the decree 012-2010, that establishes a reorganization of the informal mining activities in Madre de Dios region, because they consider it as unconstitutional.

Fernando Gala, Deputy Minister of Mining, told the press that the decree does not intend to take informal miners out of their business, as they claim. The government says that Russian and Brazilian mining corporations are manipulating the protesters.

Living in Peru also reports that the government of Peru has declared the state of emergency in seven provinces, giving the internal control to the Police, with the support of the Armed Forces:

Facing the possibility of an indefinite strike that may mobilize thousands of informal miners nationwide, the government declared the state of emergency in seven southern Provinces: Nazca, Palpa and San Juan de Marcona in Ica region, Tambopata and Manu in Madre de Dios region, and Caravelí and Camaná in Arequipa region.

Pollution and human exploitation

The president of Peru, Alan Garcia has said to CPN radio that his administration will avoid the existence of any informal mining activity, because it pollutes rivers, destroys the environment, slaves children and young workers and it creates natural disasters due to lack of proper technology.

In this sense, Garcia is right.

Many Indigenous people have migrated from the Andes to the Amazon forests of Madre de Dios, Puno and Cusco searching for promising jobs in gold mining. They work for “middle-men” ventures who work for bigger mining concessions leasing from the government. This has led to the creation of unruly small mining towns, causing pollution by chemicals used by miners. See this video:

Unfortunately, and due to the records of the Garcia administration which allows bigger cmining corporations the same kind of abuses, it's hard to trust the intentions of Garcia and its cabinet.

The other side

While the Peruvian government has become very strict with small miners, doing its job to protect the environment but the Garcia administration overlooks worse abuses committed by big mining corporations in other parts of the country, like in Yanacocha (the second biggest gold mining venture in the world) and Tambogrande where people have died of mercury pollution. Both projects are located in northern Peru and one of the activists against these abuses, father Marco Arana, is now a potential presidential candidate.

Also the Garcia administration accuses the leftist Partido Nacionalista party to promote the strikes, and the minister of Environment, Antonio Brack has said that “bad elements” could infiltrate the protests as the miner may carry guns and act violently.

The small miners say they are not promoting violence, and they have invited the National Ombudsman and the National Prosecutor's Offices, to supervise the mobilizations. The general director of FENAMARPE also said that informal mining creates $850 million dollars annually and the strike could cause over S/. 2.7 million soles in daily lose to the national economy.

In this situation both parties are looking for a formalization of the small miners, but the government seems to want to eliminate the small competition, perhaps to benefit bigger corporations.

This is especially convenient now that the Inter-Oceanic highway is coming to completion, connecting both coasts of Brazil and Peru, allowing the transportation of gold production for exportation. More details about this conflict will come to light, as the strike continues this week.

Republished from Peruanista

No comments:

Post a Comment