A massive police operation took place over four days, 3-6 July, against illegal gold mining in the national reserve of Tambopata, Madre de Dios. It is the largest such operation yet undertaken by this government, involving 966 policemen from various units. Three camps were the central target, plus 80 ‘anexos’ in the surrounding areas.
A presentation at the Interior Ministry described the destruction of large amounts of machinery and the questioning of 225 people. Of these it is notable that, while 14 ended up detained for illegal mining and five charged with human slavery, 13 were encountered who were wanted for other different offences. Eight women and children were being held in the camps against their will, the ministry said.
The regional government is also under fire. The vice-minister of the interior, Ruben Vargas, indicated that ‘preliminary investigations’ suggested that the governor, Luis Otsuka, might have been giving licences to units to operate in the protected forest area.
It is noteworthy that the environment minister, Elsa Galarza, and the minister for women and vulnerable populations, Ana Maria Romero-Lozada, also took part in the presentation. This appears to indicate a significant collaboration across the departments of government to reduce human trafficking, environmental damage and pollution.
Vargas finished with an important declaration, if it is followed up. The authorities will not stop with eradication of the camps, he said, specialised teams are working to identify the purchasers of ‘blood gold’ (‘este oro que tiene un origen de sangre).