Espinar: the use and abuse of dialogue forums

4 December 2016

We reported on an agreement reached in Espinar, Cuzco, between the government and representatives of the local community, in the three-year-old saga of the dialogue forum (mesa de diálogo) there. As we reported, a high level commission involving three government ministers struggled to produce a credible plan to follow up on commitments made (but unfulfilled) by their predecessors on the management of the effects of heavy metal poisoning on some 180 local inhabitants in the vicinity of the Tintaya mine.

An article by a member of Cooperaccion, Vanessa Schaeffer, published on 28 November, goes into more detail and makes some interesting points. It is good, she notes that the government has re-committed to building the hospital, and apparently promised short-term measures in the meantime such as taxis and more clinical facilities (módulos de atención).

It is also good that Health Minister Patricia García was remarkably frank in the meeting, commenting that there is simply neither the capacity nor the technical expertise in Peru to deal properly with heavy metal poisoning, and that the plans made three years ago were basically unreal. Her new plan is to invite WHO experts to Peru in the second week of January to help. Such honesty is to be welcomed, but it underlines in a horrifying way, albeit through a single example, how unserious the dialogue forum process can be.

On the environment, and not mentioned in the initial press reports, Schaeffer’s article underlines how nothing has happened in three years to improve the capacity of local environmental monitoring, despite the plans agreed. In a sense, the author comments, this is no surprise given the regional government’s absence in the whole process and the lack of coordination among the various organisations concerned.

The comments by García apply equally here: the accords of three years ago were, effectively, a fiction. We need to know now exactly what reform is planned, how it will be carried out and by whom.

A final comment from this useful article: it seems that the local community is distressed because it was not allowed into the meeting, in which only representatives of the local Frente de Defensa took part. Of course, working meetings need to be functional and often for that reason small, but it sounds as if the staff managing such a significant meeting needed to improve their techniques in reconciling hard-working debate with listening and communication.

Schaeffer’s article can be found at:

We also commended last week on the attention being given to the follow-up committee: we cannot underline too strongly how important it is that such follow-up occurs and is effectively monitored by civil society.

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