Last week saw the recurrence of conflict over the route by which copper is transported to port from the giant Chinese-owned mine at Las Bambas in Apurímac. This time, it occurred in the community of Yavi Yavi in the province of Chumbivilcas in Cuzco. The route between Las Bambas and the port of Matarani in Arequipa region has been declared in a ‘state of emergency’ suspending guarantees and giving police widespread powers to act.

Versions of events vary. According to the police account, detachments were dispatched to Yavi Yavi to remove a road block erected by members of the community. According to the community, the police attack was an unprovoked aggression against a group who were building new houses.

What is not in dispute is that eight people ended up wounded in the confrontation and the police encampments there to protect the route were burnt down. While the police blame community members for this, the latter claim that the police themselves burnt down the installations so as to be able to blame the community.

The people of Yavi Yavi have for months complained about the use by MMG of routes that run through it for the transport of mineral. They have two main complaints. The first concerns their demand for a renegotiation of the amounts payable by MMG for the use of the road. The second relates to the government’s decision to reclassify the road from a communal to a national highway without consulting the community first, thereby avoiding the need for MMG to compensate the community.

According to one source, parties from outside the communities have been seeking to stir up conflict in the hope of reaping rewards, including a pair of rogue lawyers keen to generate employment for themselves.