Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
Yesterday, 21st November was the set date for the final hearing in the trial against the Chaupe family. The trial sees Yanaococha, made up of some of the most powerful economic forces in the world, demanding four thousand soles from each member of the humble peasant family brought to trial, along with the eviction of the family from their land on which they have been living for nearly two decades.
The humble peasant family, of limited economic means, made the long trip to Celendin early in the morning of the 21st November – costing them substantially in time and money, only to discover as the trial resumed at 11.30am that the Prosecutor would not be attending because he had a job interview.
Obviously this knowledge did not come to the prosecutor on this day, but he chose to withhold this information until the day of the hearing, sending a messenger to deliver the news. Doctor Mirtha Vasquez, lawyer for the Chaupe family, objected to the subsequent suspension plea on the basis that the family were not given any notice – would this have been the case they could have avoided the unneccesary expendature of time and money. Additionally it would have been possible for the prosecutor to present a replacement.
The Chaupe family and their lawyer believe that this act of negligence was not just a display of lack of respect, but also a deliberate attempt to further harrass and debilitate the spirit of the family.
It was also seen as an attempt to tire the public support; a campaign by the local population had gotten underway to show their support for the family. In the morning of the hearing five compañeros were detained by the police for announcing the hearing by loudspeaker and inviting the public to a demonstration outside the Juzgado. One of those detained was an elderly lady who, as a result, is now suffering from ill health and bad nerves. Doctor Vazquez questioned the legitamacy of the arrest given that it is not illegal to broadcast information by loadspeaker.
However, despite this attempt to silence the resistance, shortly after 10am a crowd gathered outside the Juzgado with their music and their banners, to peacefully and creatively show the family that the people of Celendin were behind them, and that their fight was the fight of everyone in the struggle. A delegation from the Women in Defense of Life from Cajamarca also joined the people of Celendin to show their support.
The Prosecutor, working hand in hand with the lawyer of Yanaocha, hoped that this act would annoy and dishearten the family and their supporters. But in reality it did the opposite – the people were indignant and defiant, and promised to add more force to the campaign to show support to the Chaupe family.
There is a petition, on paper and on-line, for anyone wishing to show their support (spanish:https://congaconflict.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/tienes-5-minutos-para-ayudar-a-la-familia-chaupe/, english:https://congaconflict.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/5-minutes-to-help-maxima-chaupe-and-her-family-from-eviction/), and on the 3rd December at 11am the people will come out in greater force in front of the Juzgado Penal Unipersonal of Celendin to show that the fight of the Chaupe family is the fight of everyone, and together we will stand.