Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
In Cajamarca an indefinite strike was launched on 29th August against the mining companies Tantahuatay, Coimolache – Gold Fields, La Zanja and Conga. The three provinces of San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Hualgayoc declared themselves on an indefinite strike, supported by the provinces of Celendin and San Marcos.
The demands of the strikers were as follows:
– No more mining or concessions at the head of water basins
– That the head of water basins are declared intangible zones,
– That all licenses for the use of subterranean and surface water for mining use be suspended
– That the murders of environmental leaders are investigated
– That a solution is found for environmental liabilities in Hualgayoc
On the first day of the strike 3,000 ronderos gathered at the zone known as El Empalme, and a further 1,000 were intercepted on route and prevented from joining the blockade.
Photo: Vilma Rodríguez Chihuán
The national government sent busloads of police to the area, one protester commented that it appeared that the police outnumbered the protesters two to one. On the first day the strike the police remained passive, but on the morning of the second day they began attacking the crowds. They assaulted protesters and shot live ammunition into the air to disperse the crowds. They also entered houses to extract their targets. One protester commented that one of their targets was obviously Edy Benevides, community leader from Hualgayoc, though they were unsuccessful as Benevides avoided apprehension. The protester also described how they suddenly realized they were surrounded by police on all sides.
Four protesters were arrested – two women and two men: Wilmer Julón Huamán (36) from El Tambo, Giovana Jesus Medina Saldaña (27) from Celendín, Janet Caruajulca Luna (27) from Bambamarca and Emiterio Acuña Barboza (47) from Bambamarca. One of the men and one of the women were beaten.
See the video below for the testimonies of the detained upon their release:
One of the women detained, Giovana Jesus Medina Saldaña, was badly beaten and left needing medical attention. See below for report:
Conga Conflict`s report on Facebook, 31st August:
Yesterday, 30th August, Giovana Saldaña was arrested along with 3 others while peacefully protesting against destructive mining in Cajamarca. Giovana testifies that the policeman who arrested her singled her out because he had seen her in previous protests. He came up behind her and beat her in the lower spine with his weapon before arresting her. Giovana and the 3 other protesters were bundled into an ambulance and taken to Cajamarca. They were lead to believe they were going to be taken to Chiclayo (a city 4 hours’ drive away on the coast). They were held for most of the day before being finally released. Before her release the medical officer told Giovana she had to get a pelvic screening, due to her injuries and the fact that she was suffering from vaginal bleeding, though she would have to seek out a doctor and pay for this herself. Being a public holiday, this was very difficult to do. She was finally attended to in the regional hospital, but the doctor, knowing she had come in from the protest, showed very little interest, told her her bleed was due to a hormonal change, and sent her away with a prescription for painkillers. Wanting a second opinion, because of the sustained pain and bleeding, Giovana returned later that evening to see another doctor. This time the doctor confirmed that the pain in her back and stomach and the bleeding were due to the beating she received from the police. Giovana also showed clear signs of trauma as a result of the assault. Giovana is a brave woman who has suffered alot because of her commitment to the fight to save the environment from the earth-destroying multinationals, backed up by the national government. Sigue adelente compañera! NI CONGA NI CHADIN!
Interview with Giovana about her ordeal as she waits to receive medical attention at the Cajamarca Regional Hospital:
Giovana has since went to another doctor in Celendin who also confirmed that the vaginal bleeding was due to the beating she received. He said it wasn`t possible that the bleeding was hormonal, given it was so far away from her normal menstruation. She continues to receive treatment to ensure there is no blood clotting.
After the heavy handed response from the police the crowd were left dispersed and the police resided over the road that was previously blocked by ronderos. However this suppression has not dampened the spirit of the struggle; the communities continue in their commitment to oppose these destructive mining projects and are evaluating their next step. When the life of your community, of the future generations of your community, is at risk, giving up is not an option.