Mapping the 'climate of conflict' as the new year gets under way
22 January 2018
Following the introduction of a general state of emergency throughout the 'mining corridor' in southern Peru, José De Echave, former vice-minister of the environment, has produced a trenchant analysis of the “climate of conflict” as he calls it.
Not surprisingly, he highlights in considerable detail the tensions in the extractives sector, but begins with the first strike of this year: that of potato farmers over a vast area of the Andean highlands. Their protest can teach us much about the underlying problems of lack of information and voice: these small farmers, some 70,000 in number, are suffering from a disastrous fall in prices. De Echave says that among the main arguments of the protesters is the damage done by the import of potatoes; however though the amount involved (at least according to official ministry data) is minuscule accounting for 0.79% of the total supply.
De Echave goes on to underline the threat of a further teachers' general strike this year, while discontent is building over the inadequate implementation of plans for reconstruction after the flooding caused by El Niño last year.
The article provides salient comment on the inappropriateness of states of emergency and the criminalisation of protest as methods of responding to social discord. All of this, De Echave argues, demands something other than simply a reactive strategy, which ends up 'putting out fires' but does nothing to resolve the root causes of problems.