Strategy for dealing with conflicts?

9 January 2017

As 2017 dawns, the conflictive inheritance from 2016 (and even before) makes itself felt. The latest figures from the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo) show that there were no less than 213 conflicts (73% of them ‘active’) as of the end of last November, the great majority classified as ‘social-environmental’ and most of these to do with mining.

The appointment of Rolando Luque as the key person in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for sorting out these conflicts came as a source of hope to many who have followed the sorry stories of mining conflicts in recent years. However, the Kuczynski administration is increasingly coming under attack for its lack of a proper strategy to resolve these problems at source and to go beyond that of ‘firemen’ responding retroactively to conflicts that have already turned violent.

Armando Villanueva, the president of the parliamentary commission on energy and mining, has drawn attention to the lack of a discernible strategy and how this will further complicate unresolved mining conflicts in the coming months. Silvio Campana, the former representative of the Defensoría in Cuzco, says that the new government has so far failed to come up with fresh policies for resolving mining problems, in effect pursuing the same failed ones employed by its predecessors.

The most conflictive part of the country is in the south. Topping the list of conflictive regions is Apurímac with 22 live cases, followed in order of magnitude by Cuzco (22 cases), Puno (13), Arequipa and Moqegua (five apiece). Among the prime examples of latent conflicts are Las Bambas in Apurímac and Tía María in Arequipa.

To be fair, it would seem that the new government has sought to be more proactive in negotiating with angry communities, with senior officials dispatched to places like Saramurillo (in Amazonas) and Las Bambas, and with Kuczynski promising a visit to the Tambo valley in Arequipa where farmers remain poised to do battle once again over Tía María. But what is needed is a strategy that pre-empts conflict, accommodates local demands and ensure the smooth development of new projects.

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