VIVAT International members in Peru have recently witnessed an upsurge of violent anti-mining protests and a subsequent, troubling curtailment of basic freedoms. Since the first days of July, the Peruvian government has enforced a State of Emergency in the northern region of Cajamarca. The region has been the site of persistent anti-mining protests for many years. However, within the past few weeks, as work on the huge $4.8 billion Conga mining project has continued, these protests have increased in size and intensity. This newfound virulence prompted the government to declare the State of Emergency for the entire region of Cajamarca, an act which restricts basic civil rights such as the freedom of movement and freedom of assembly. However, despite the restrictions on freedoms, the protests continued to gain momentum in the region. As these persistent protesters and local police forces clashed on July 3rd in the town Celendin, three protesters were killed. On the following day another two protesters, including a 17 year-old boy, were left dead by stray bullets and police brutality. Witness footage of police violently targeting protesters can be found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bw8FCelp8w. These protester deaths are particularly unjust, given that the protesters are rightly objecting to human rights violations. The developers of the Conga mine have not sought the consent of local communities to develop. The mine itself also poses a serious environmental risk to the water source for the nearby farming communities.
To combat these injustices, non-governmental organizations have explored several channels of action to criticize the Peruvian government and raise international awareness of the issue. As information about the protests trickled in, statement/letters condemning the violence and calling for an end to human rights violations in Peru were crafted by NGOs. The statement, whose signatories list include Passionists International, UNANIMA International, Pax Christi International and Mercy International Association at the UN called on the Peruvian government to immediately stop the violence in Cajamarca, to lift the state of emergency in the provinces, to conduct a fair investigation into the incident, and to initiate a process of dialogue with the affected populations. These collaborations heightened the effect of the statements as each partner organization co-signed on the final document. This collaborative group then sent the specially tailored letters to the Peruvian Mission at the UN, the high commissioner of the UN Human Rights Council, the Peruvian government in Lima, and several further embassies and consulates with vested interests in Peru. We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and to advocate for the human rights of victims. Furthermore, we will work to connect local observers and opposition leaders to the relevant legislative bodies to productively pursue peace in the future.
The statement, including the list of signatories, here.