From the Vicaría del Medio Ambiente de Jaén VIMA
31 March 2009
Charge of terrorism dropped again
On the third of March 2009, the provincial department of the public prosecutor in Piura dropped the charges against the 35 accused of terrorism (amongst them mayors, leaders of local communities, defenders of human rights and environmentalists).
All of the accused oppose mining in Northern-Peru and were involved in the 2007 referenda, in Carmen de la Frontera, Ayabaca and Pacaipampa, where the grand majority of people voted against mining activity on their lands.
The charge of terrorism was filed on the 24th of March 2008 by the “Asocación Civil Frente de Unidad de la Comunidades Campesina de Segunda y ajas” (ACFUCCSC); it accuses the 35 of belonging to a radical leftwing movement originating in the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and Túpac Amaru (MRTA).
UCFUCCSC turned out to be a new movement, supporting the activities of Rio Blanco Copper S.A. (former Minera Majaz S.A.); the mining company that was the motive for the organisation of the previously mentioned referenda.
The 23rd of October 2008, the charge was dropped for the first time, as the prosecutor concluded, after investigating all the evidence and the testimonies, that the charges were groundless.
The same happened on 3rd of March of this year; neither proof nor indications that point to a possible involvement of those charged were found. None the less, the accusers have already announced their appeal at the highest court of justice.
In the mean time, the conflict with mining company Rio Blanco Copper S.A. persists. And thus also the criminalisation of all opposition. For example Julio Vásquez, the reporter who voiced the tortures of villagers by personnel of Majaz S.A. (now Rio Blanco S.A.), still receives death threats.
Renewed talks about Rio Blanco Copper S.A. in San Ignacio
On the second of March 2009, the ‘Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros'(PCM) and the ‘Frente por el desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Perú’ (FDSFNP) renewed their dialogue. The previous talks were ended in December 2007 after the representatives of the government ignored the concerns voiced by the FDSFNP on the violations of human rights and the social and environmental impact of the mining company Río Blanco Copper S.A. (ex minera Majaz).
During the first talk, on the second of March 2009, the cabinet engaged itself to send representatives to the concerned provinces – San Ignacio, Huancabamba and Ayabaca – in order to map the situation. The government lived up to this promise when on the 17th of March, they sent a delegation of the PCM to visit the city of San Ignacio. This visit was historical because it was the first time the city received visitors from so high up in the national government of Peru.
During the visit, the problems concerning the mining company Rio Blanco S.A. were presented extensively and fervently. Once again it was stated that the presence of the company is illegal and that there have been grave violations of human rights. Also, there was a lot of attention for the ecological impact exploration in this fragile environment would have. Apart from the contamination of water, the depletion of water sources and health impacts it may cause, there is also the threat that the farmers might lose the organic certificates they obtained during the last few years. These certificates do not only provide a financial surplus, they guarantee the competitiveness of the district of San Ignacio on the national and international market. When these certificates are no longer provided, the local economy will be severely impacted.
The clear and firm NO of the province of San Ignacio concerning mining in the region, is not an improvident NO. The province’s no is based on a clear alternative vision, which is founded on a plan for development with emphasis on the improvement of organic farming. Multiple representatives of organic coffee, granadillas, pineapple, sugar cane, honey, bananas and cacao projects, presented their work.
Already, San Ignacio is the most important exporter of organic coffee in the province of Cajamarca. Notwithstanding bad infrastructure, minimal aid of the government, lack of basic supplies (on average one hour of ‘drinkable’ water per day, no hospital, shortage of teachers in the rural areas etc.) this forgotten corner of Peru has succeeded in generating successful organic agriculture.
Apart from the clear NO to mining, the mayor appealed for an improvement of the infrastructure (of primary importance is the road, which connects the province with the rest of the country and is thus of prime importance for the export of crops) in order to increase the competitiveness of the province.
The PCM said it understood the District’s preoccupations and promised to brief the prime minister about them. And thus, without entering the subject of mining, the main goal of the visit, vague promises of national support were made.
Nicanor Alvarado, representative of the FDSFNP said not to cherish a lot of hope for concrete results of this meeting. Nonetheless, he deemed the meeting historical because it means an official acknowledgement of the FDSFNP and because it puts the Rio Blanco case on the national agenda.
After consulting the provinces of Ayabaca and Huancabamba (witch will take place at the end of March/beginning of April), the prime minister will formulate a proposition for further dialogue.
Second extra-ordinary sub-regional congress of Rondas Campesinas in Jaén
The 2nd extra-ordinary sub-regional congress of the Rondas, which took place in Jaén last weekend, was a success. Almost 800 representatives of the Rondas of the Northern Districts of the province Cajamarca, were present to evaluate the working and leaders of the Rondas Campesinas and Rondas Urbanas and to choose new leaders. Various themes and concerns were discussed in this agitated and extensive assembly, but the main themes were environment and the influence of transnational companies on the local economy. Also, the present government was criticised and the “modelo primario exportador” was presented (this states that the economy of Peru is a primary economy, based on the exploitation and export of its raw materials) and critically evaluated.
The rondas reaffirmed their commitment to protect and defend the environment. They clearly stated that they want to be included in the decision making process regarding the development plans of their regions and they oppose the introduction of foreign companies in the region without their approval. More specifically, they oppose international mining companies who want to establish themselves in the provinces of Cajamarca (Jaén and San Ignacio) and Piura (Huancabamba) and who form a direct threat to organic agriculture, the quality and quantity of ground water and the general health of the population.
In a democratic process, the majority of the present representatives elected the rondero Juan Manuel Estela Rojos as the new regional president for Jaén and San Ignacio. He will defend these values in the region.
During the evaluation of former leaders, Segunda Rosadamo Dragon was found guilty of stealing money from the rondas. Also, it was shown that he was corrupted by the mining lobby, as he is seen to accept money in a video that surfaced earlier this year. He was sentenced to 30 days of social work and will never be able to become a leader again. Also, 12 other leaders were sentenced to receive lashes (the punishment was immediately executed) because they were aware of what was happening but failed to signal it earlier, thus damaging the trust of the local bases in their leaders. By evaluating all of them, the trust of the local bases in their leaders was restored and the unity of the rondas was strengthened.
From the Vicaría del Medio Ambiente de Jaén VIMA