Vice-minister for social conflict

5 March 2017

On 2 March, the government is reported to have appointed Javier Fernandez-Concha Stucker as the new vice-minister for territorial governance within the office of the prime minister. Four weeks earlier, a supreme decree was published changing the institutional structure of the prime minister’s office to reflect the creation of a new vice-ministry. This is due to take over responsibility for territorial demarcation and conflict resolution, subsuming the National Office for Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS).

As readers of the newsletter will recall, the person appointed to lead the ONDS, Rolando Luque, was welcomed by human rights organisations as someone with deep knowledge of social conflicts gleaned from his years at the Defensoría del Pueblo. At the time of going to print, Luque’s future in the new set-up seemed uncertain.

While the creation of a new vice-ministry appeared to give the whole question of social conflict greater prominence in the policy-making hierarchy, much would evidently depend on who is in charge. NGOs like Cooperacción were critical of Fernández-Cocha’s likely appointment owing to his close association with the mining industry.

Fernandez-Concha was previously general manager at Sulliden Shahundo SAC and Sulliden Peru SA, both subsidiaries of the Canadian company Sulliden Gold Corporation. A lawyer by training, he had been part of Sulliden’s legal team in recent years, as well as being vice-president for social and legal matters at the Rio Alto mining company.

Tensions surrounding the management of social conflict in mining areas have been at the centre of controversy throughout much of the previous Humala administration. The powerful mining lobby pushed Humala to adopt an uncompromising line by using force rather than concessions to deal with social conflicts. The Conga dispute in Cajamarca was emblematic, leading to the sacking of two prime ministers in six months in 2011-12.

Luque’s appointment last October seemed to lead to a less confrontational stance, with the use of dialogue round-tables to negotiate solutions rather than the implementation of states of emergency in which the police and military are given special powers to control conflict. If Fernandez-Concha’s appointment is finally ratified, it would suggest that the approach of negotiation to deal with conflict may be coming to an end.

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