Reporting on the conflict between the mega mining project Conga and the people of Cajamarca, Peru
Yesterday, Thursday 16th January, thousands of villagers gathered at over 4000 feet about sea level at the lagoons of Conga, to demonstrate, once again, the overwhelming local rejection of the Conga mining project.
On the side of Celendin, the population came from every corner of the province and culminated at El Perol lagoon, the first would-be target of the Conga mining project. The company has already asked for government permission to drain the mountain lake to prepare for extraction.
They came on foot and on horseback, as all vehicles were retained at the blockade the mine has enforced on the communal road. Milton Sanchez Cubas, President of the Platforma Interinstitucional Celendina (PIC), affirmed that over 1,500 arrived on foot, accompanied by 300 on horseback.
When they arrived at El Perol they encountered about 16 individual, locals who have been contracted to work for the mine – the supposed 32 communities, who were heavily guarded by the National Police of Peru. The true representatives of the entire province did not engage in this provocation, instead they peacefully carried out their Assembly as planned. At this Assembly they reaffirmed the province´s complete and utter rejection of the Conga mining project – constituting as it does a threat to their lives and the lives of generations to come, and restated their commitment to defend their water until the threat has gone.
On the Bambamarca side, similarly the locals gathered from all corners of the province at the Namacocha lagoon, including a delegation from Cajamarca lead by the ´Agua si, Oro no´ musicians Tinkari. The plan was to march to join their fellow Guardians at El Perol but due to the heavy police presence and various blockades this was impossible. Edy Benevides, President of the Defense Front of Bambamarca, declared on Nueva DjRadio that on route they encountered machinery from the mine – a provoking find given the project is still supposedly suspended and still lacks a social licence. The ronderos have demanded that the machinery be removed.
Terrorists and Vandals
At approximately midday yesterday reports emerged that a telephone mast had been set alight near the Namacocha lagoon. This was immediately attributed to the protesters which lead to a barrage of reports in the national media that ´terrorists´, ´extremists´ and ´vandals´ had ´disrupted the peace´ in Conga (one being Canal Fashion “N”).
However others tell a difference story. Reporter Jorge Pereyra writes that it was actually workers of Yanacocha who set the telephone mast alight, in order to achieve what was achieved – mass slander of the protesters. Campaign leaders of both Bambamarca and Celendin – Edy Benavides and Milton Sanchez Cubas, both negated that violence had taken place.
Pereyra also reports that a number of protesters were arbitrarily detained by the police and transferred to firstly La Encañada and then to Cajamarca. Furthermore, a police infiltrator, who goes by the name of RIVELINO PEREZ MOROCHO, was detained by the Rondas Campesinas for filming and collecting information at the manifestation.
Also joining the protesters, and possibly a reason why the police didn`t use their new ´licence to kill´ powers, were various international observers from countries such as Canada, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, France and Colombia. The eyes of the world continue to look towards Cajamarca and the injustice draws solidarity from all corners.