Las Bambas conflict reignited

11 February 2017

On 10 February the government issued a supreme decree (015-2017-PCM) declaring a state of emergency in the province of Cotabambas for 30 days, suspending constitutional rights (personal freedoms and security, freedoms of transit and public assembly) and putting matters of public order in the hands of the police and armed forces. This occurred in response to the escalation of protest at the Las Bambas copper mine in Apurimac. A 72-hour strike was declared in the district of Challhuahuacho on 6 February, which by 8 February had become ‘indefinite’, as protesting communities blocked roads in the area in addition to the continued blocking of the key controversial road by four of the affected communities. The intention is now to block all access routes from the mine to the port.

Two months ago Vice-president Martín Vizcarra personally delivered a ‘Plan de Desarrollo Integral’ for the province of Cotabambas and the district of Progreso. The Plan was for five years and promised numerous public works projects - see earlier PSG article. The eight simultaneous workshops presenting the Plan are being run by representatives of the Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros (PCM) and are open to the public.

However, the population see that the projects are being delayed. Locals complain that the plan has only been discussed by the region’s mayor and a technical team and that local leaders have been excluded. According to the Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros, dialogue is not aided by the fact that the different districts are in discord about the agenda and about leadership issues. The situation on the ground is thus very confused.

According to Wilfredo Contreras, spokesman for the municipality of Challhuahuacho, Vizcarra’s plan offers nothing new. “The only thing that he has done is to put together the plans that are already in existence”, he says. Contreras demands the presence of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Prime Minister Fernando Zavala as a condition for calling off the strike.

Meanwhile there seems to be silence on the main challenge to the mine owners, MMG, in the government’s proposals in November. This was the requirement that the much-disputed Environmental Impact Assessment would be re-evaluated within three months. Other pending issues concerning human rights and compensation from last October’s violent confrontations and the death of a community member also appear to be absent from the agenda.

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