Three killed during protest in Celendín

Three civilians were killed yesterday during protests against the Conga mining project in the north of Peru. One of the victims is a 17-years old boy. Moreover, 21 persons got injured and 16 detained by the police. The government has declared state of emergency in the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín and Hualgayoc-Bambamarca.

A thousand people yesterday marched the streets of Celendín to protest against the Conga mining project. Around 1 pm they tried to enter the municipality, which resulted in a confrontation with the police. Tear gas was used against the protesters and reinforcement was flown in by helicopter. In order to disperse the crowd, police officers and soldiers fired, allegedly only rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. However, three persons got killed.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry announced the deadly victims were José Faustina Silva Sanchez (35), Eleuterio Garcia Diaz (40) and César Medina Aguilar (17). Detainees were transferred to the main police office of Cajamarca and will be brought to the coastal town of Chiclayo for criminal offense investigation.

As soon as the news spread, thousands of people took the streets of Cajamarca. They moved to the police office to demand the liberation of the detainees, where the were welcomed with tear gas. Around 9 pm a peaceful wake on the Plaza de Armas of Cajamarca was brutally dispersed by the police, using tear gas once again.

The immediate motive for the confrontation is unclear. The Interior Ministry’s statement said two police officers were wounded by gunfire from protesters during the attempt to take the municipality.  It adds the three deadly victims were shot by other protesters, not by police. A serious investigation of what happened would be more appropriate than this easy accusation. Non-violence has been the norm in the Cajamarca protests.

During the last weeks, tension in Cajamarca has increased dramatically. An undetermined regional strike against the mining project is entering its 34th day. On the 23the of June president Humala in a message to the nation once again declared the project will be realized anyway. To many people”s surprise, last Saturday it was made public works on the site have started, without social license whatsoever. Feelings of frustration and impotence are widespread.

In the course of yesterday evening, the government declared a state of emergency in the provinces of Celendín, Cajamarca and Hualgayoc-Bambamarca, taking effect at midnight for a 30 day-period. Constitutional guarantees concerning personal freedom and security, inviolability of domicile and freedom of association and transit are suspended. The army is allowed to assist police with maintenance of public order.

Excessive violence and states of emergency increasingly appear the Humala government’s standard reply to social protest. Only one month ago, Peruvian police killed two civilians during protests against the Tintaya-mine of Swiss company Xstrata in the southern province of Espinar. During the 11 months since Ollanta Humala is in power, 15 people died as a consequence of police crackdown on social protest.

Catapa supports the people of Cajamarca in the field. At the same time, we try to make sure their demands are heard internationally. One way we do this is  with an Avaaz-petition targeting the investors in the Conga-project. Click this link to sign.

 

The same day there was a mourning ceremony at the main square in the city of Cajamarca, brutally intervened by police forces. A video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnZU3DieZ1o

 

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