FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Cajamarca Protest

Penal de Huacariz Cajamarca, Peru.

“The sleeping lion finally woke up,” expressed a Cajamarcan lay worker who visited here in Huacariz Prison last Saturday, referring to the recent protests against the Yanacocha Mine Company. The mayor of one of Cajamarca’s provinces explained that “this struggle is necessary and just. It’s a struggle for life.”

The people of Cajamarca paralyzed the area for over two weeks this September. A protest that began with the peasant community that lives in the Cerro Quilish (Quilish Hill) days earlier gave the warning signal. The Yanacocha Mining Company, whose principle shareholder is the North American gold mining giant, Newmont, was authorized by the Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines to carry out explorations in the Cerro Quilish, the water source for Cajamarca and nearby areas.

Seemingly seeking fame as an environmental hazard wrapped up in a gold mining company, Newmont’s Yanacocha mining efforts in others hills have already caused damage to Cajamarca over the last ten years. Locals complain of much more than just the death of trout and frogs, or the high chemical contamination of the water that is causing a series of health problems. The mercury spill in the Cajamarcan district of Choropampa a few years back was just one illustration of the carelessness with which the issue of environmental protection is dealt. This mine has also brought all of the ugliness of the developed world to the once quiet city, remembered for its dairy products, the Inca thermal baths, and for housing the memories of the beginning of the fall of the Inca Empire in the 1500s. Cajamarcans now complain of the increased crime rates, the proliferation of drugs on its once peaceful streets, and of the Yanacocha Mining Company’s few direct befits to locals. Those who work in the mine are mostly brought in from other regions of Peru, and the indirect benefits of providing services to the mine workers are far outweighed by the skyrocketing cost of living in Cajamarca, today among the highest, if not the highest, in all of Peru. However, the clearest signal that “something is wrong” is the annual statistical report on poverty that shows how Cajamarca has moved from fourth to second place in the rankings by department (the equivalent of state), a poverty level which has increased during the years in which Latin America´s number one gold producer has been functioning here.

The exploration of Cerro Quilish, especially when taking into account Newmont’s record worldwide in causing terrible health problems to the populations near their mines, is very threatening to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people and to the future of this part of the country. This isn’t the first time that a foreign company has come in to take away Peru’s wealth and give it, in turn, poverty and lifeless lands. Other mining companies have done the same in other regions of Peru, as well as elsewhere in the world. It is a problem for dependent countries and their impoverished citizens when faced with capitalist monsters that want to increase their fortunes at any cost. Even when the destruction of water sources is condemned by the United Nations, the general feeling is that power can buy off anyone or anything, and history has shown this to be true. Globalized capitalism continues to divide up the world into pockets of resources, natural or human, to be used and disposed of at the whim of those who have power. Struggling against a monster of that size is not an easy feat; however, there are many who are willing to give it a try.

The peasant communities of the Cerro Quilish gave out the warning once again. The Peruvian Government’s authorization brought about the initial protests among those closest to the hill. Peasants from other provinces of Cajamarca joined them in solidarity, as did local unions, students and Cajamarcans in general, producing the largest protest ever seen here.

The result has been the temporary suspension of the exploration of the Cerro Quilish and the subsequent reduction of the work by the Yanacocha Mining Company as it awaits the “tests” that would somehow prove that the company is not affecting the environment. In itself, stopping the work at the mine, however temporarily it might be, is quite an achievement but, sadly, it seems as though the road to justice is quite a long one and this struggle will go on for the long haul. This is merely the beginning.

As much as I truly admire the determination of those who started and later joined these protests throughout the entire department of Cajamarca, I believe it’s not going to be enough. This is an issue that affects all of Peru, and the Third World in general. The cycle of regarding countries as resource warehouses began centuries ago, here and elsewhere, in colonies and dependent republics. But isn,t it a good time to change that cycle? It’s a difficult task for all people of good conscience, but a very necessary one.

My solidarity is with the peasant communities and all of those who initiated this struggle. I am convinced that many more of us will continue to join hands to promote life and true justice and oppose the destruction of the livelihood of a people, their water sources, and their future, in Cajamarca and elsewhere.

LORI BERENSON, a US citizen, has been incarcerated in Peru for nearly nine years. In 1995 she was convicted for treason against the fatherland of Peru for leadership of a subversive group by a hooded military court and given a life sentence. In 2000 the Supreme Military Council of Justice annulled the conviction and sentence based new evidence and remanded her case to a civilian court. In 2001 she was convicted of collaboration with a subversive organization but acquitted of all charges of leadership, membership or militancy with that group. She received a 20 year sentence. In 2002 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled unanimously that neither of her trials met international standards of due process and that there was no basis for conviction in the civilian trial. Peru refused to abide by the Commission’s ruling that Lori’s rights be completely restored and the Commission then took her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica. A decision is expected in the next few months. That decision is binding on Peru and its government said it would comply. For more on Berenson’s case visit FreeLori.org. Messages to Lori can be sent to: berenson@freelori.org

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
Jonathan Cook
How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David
William Hartung
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
John G. Russell
The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President
Judith Deutsch
Psychology Stories: Children
Dean Baker
The Coal Industry is Not a Major Employer
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists
Thomas Knapp
National Polls Don’t Mean Much. Here’s Why.
Thomas Mountain
Africans Solving African Problems; Bringing Peace to Sudan
Ann Garrison
History Is Happening: WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate
Elliot Sperber
Don’t Open the Door 
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail