Peru: lawmakers resign from ruling party as mining conflicts escalate

Three prominent lawmakers publicly resigned from President Ollanta Humala's ruling Gana Perú coalition June 4 over the government's handling of protests against the Xstrata Tintaya copper mine in Cuzco's Espinar province. Legislators Rosa Mavila and Javier Diez-Canseco issued a joint letter addressed to Humala, charging that his government had taken a "confrontational" stance against protesters, and rejected dialogue. "Those who were defeated in the elections have become co-governors," the legislators said, referring to Humala's tilt to the pro-corporate politics he campaigned against last year. Cuzco region congress member Veronika Mendoza issued her own statement, calling a press conference to announce her resignation from the Gana Perú bloc, at which she wielded a Health Ministry study on the Xstrata Tintaya mine she said had been suppressed. "In this document, it is confirmed that the maximum limits for arsenic and mercury have been exceeded" in the area around the mine, she said. "Quantities of heavy metals above the permitted levels were found in water used for human consumption." (Cronica Viva,, June 7; Peruvian Times, June 5; RPP, June 4)

In her resignation letter, she too protested the government's heavy hand taken with the protesters: "I have seen the human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, branded as delinquents, mistreated and humiliated. I have seen how a local authority who tried patiently to echo the demand of his people was arbitrarily and violently detained. I have seen the tears of the people outraged over this detention. Do you really believe that a mayor—in sound mind—could place Molotov bombs in his security vehicles in a city full of police and journalists?" (La Republica, Veronika Mendoza website, June 4)

Espinar's mayor, Óscar Mollohuanca Cruz, accused of sequestering petrol bombs for the protesters in a municipal security patrol vehicle, has been sent to a prison in the coastal region of Ica, hundreds of miles from Cuzco, where he is to be held for at least five months while an investigation is carried out. Authorities in Cuzco region have protested the move, calling it irregular and demanding that the Association of Municipalities of Peru (AMPE) issue an official complaint. Cuzco city mayor Luis Flórez García is among those speaking out against Mollohuanca's imprisonment. "As mayor, and in the name of the Municipal Council, I express my total rejection of this decision," he said. (La Republica, June 4)

Amnesty International issued a statement warning that Mollohuanca, who was detained May 30, is in danger of mistreatment. Another 25 have been arrested in Espinar since May 28, including two observers from the human rights group Vicaría de Solidaridad de Sicuani. All have been released but face charges, and many said they had been beaten and abused in detention. (Amnesty International, June 4)

New violence in Cajamarca
New confrontations between anti-mine protesters and police broke out June 5 in Cajamarca, as residents attempted to block the road connecting the Andean region to the coast at Aylambo, a pueblo just outside the regional capital. At least 14 were injured and hospitalized when a National Police charge broke up the human roadblock. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and, according to some reports, real bullets. Another violent confrontation took place at the National University of Cajamarca. One protester was also wounded as local campesinos attempted to block the road between Bambamarca town and the Yanacocha mine. (Celendin Libre, June 6; RPP, June 5)

Peru's Legal Defense Institute (IDL) has issued a statement questioning the legitimacy of Administrative Resolution 096-2012-CE-PJ, issued May 31 by the Executive Council of Judicial Power, which oversees Peru's court system. The decree mandates that those arrested in protests in Cuzco and Cajamarca be jailed and tried in Ica and Lambayeque, respectively. The IDL called on Judicial Power to rescind the order, and "guarantee the independence of its institution and that of the judges in the conflicted zones." (Servindi, June 2)

See our last posts on Peru and regional struggles over water and minerals.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.