Las Bambas: road remains blocked to mine trucks

29 October 2016

The whole country is watching closely as the Kuczynski government attempts to deal with the critical situation at the Las Bambas mine in Apurímac where, two weeks ago, a protester was shot dead by the police. It was a wise move to send the vice-president, Martín Vizcarra, in person, since he is a former governor of nearby Moquegua region.

Vizcarra tweeted after the first day of talks with local leaders in Apurímac: “we as the state will take responsibility and require the company to fulfill its responsibilities,” and “we’re going to contribute to the development of the whole province, not just the area near Las Bambas.” In another interview he declared: “we believe the problem can be solved but [only by] working with complete seriousness, because we are talking with the people from the poorest province in Peru and we have to change that,” and “[they] have little confidence because [the government] has failed them many times. We cannot fail them again.”

Such responses provide an answer to some of the many complaints made by actors and observers alike; they argue that the government is too much inclined to see such issues as being between ‘the company’ and ‘the community’ and that it is dangerous and a distortion to focus on too small a group of the population; the weight of history matters in such disputes.

While more than 80% of the population of Cotabambas province appears to accept the truce, the villages of Quehuira, Ayahua, Choqueca and Pumamarca (those closest to the mine) are still unwilling to suspend their blockade. The road is now open to ordinary traffic but not to company trucks carrying copper to port. “We are continuing the protest until our requests are resolved. We are tired of dialogue tables and truces”, Quehuira village leader Raimundo Letona told the La República newspaper.

Local leaders are meeting this weekend to sharpen their agenda of demands, while appeals for dialogue continue. A recurring theme in such conflicts seems to be that while protesters are unwilling to suspend action prior to demands being met, the government is unwilling to enter fully into dialogue while protests continue.

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