The government last week ordered in troops to open the road leading from Las Bambas in Apurímac to Matarani on the coast, once again decreeing a state of emergency in this troubled part of southern Peru. The communities’ demands remain on the table with no clear plan for further mediation.
Since 22 September the communities of Chumbivilcas had been blocking the road which gives MMG at Las Bambas access to the port of Matarani. The action follows many months of protest. Efforts by the government to initiate dialogue with the protesting communities finally came to nothing early last week.
The communities see the initial step to a solution to be the revoking of the national status of the contested road. It is this status as a national highway which allows the government to insist that vehicles must pass freely, and it is this that limits the ability of the communities to claim compensation for the harm they suffer.
But, as the transport minister has explained, revoking the law is not a simple matter: it would mean suspending the status of the numerous other roads so classified. A modification to the norm could be considered but, he suggested, it should be discussed via the usual procedure of a dialogue table.
Tension has mounted since 1 October, when police and protestors clashed with several injuries on both sides and one protester losing an eye. The NGO Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras (DHSF) has already launched a protest to the authorities in Cusco asking for a full investigation of the circumstances.
On 15 October, the government announced a state of emergency in various districts (Ccapacmarca, Colquemarca, Chamaca y Velille) and moved in 300 police and army troops to calm the situation and re-open the road. By 17 October, traffic was moving again between Cuzco and Abancay.
Ironically, MMG is now discussing seriously, it seems, abandoning the road and finally building the pipeline anticipated by the original EIA but then rejected in favour of transporting mineral by road. It was this violation of the terms of the EIA without consultation that precipitated protest in the first place as damage from use of the road became abundantly clear.