Criminalization in breach of the legal framework
Disregarding human rights, states and enterprises often neglect national and international laws as companies proceed in their mining activities. This type of criminalization is characterized by a broader context of forceful repression, human rights abuses, militarization and harassment.
The Conga project – the social protest
Police and military forces are criminalizing the social protest against the Conga mining project by the use of excessive force in proportion to the situation. Peaceful protest often is met by violent reactions of armed forces; protesters often are beaten during manifestations. A sad example of these practices regarding the social conflict of Conga, was the manifestation at the mountain lakes on November the 29th, 2011. This confrontation between protesters and police took place at the sixth day of a regional strike, protesters entered the concessioned mining zone and claimed their rights on these grounds. The police reacted with excessive force and teargas. Official numbers of injured protesters and police forces differ from source to source, from newspaper to television programs. Marino Rodrigues, one of the protesters that day, lost his eye; as you can see in a photo below.
A list of injured people from the Direccion de Salud from the regional government of Cajamarca, evaluating the conflict from november the 29th, 2011.
Another sad example of these practices, the use of excessive force by armed forces against protesters, was the first day (May 31, 2012) of the regional strike against the Conga mining project in the city of Cajamarca. Police harassed women preparing dinner for the demonstrators, knocked over cooking pots, maltreated a young woman and fired tear gas canisters at the crowd. Four persons were injured, eight arrested and transferred to the main police station.
Moreover, the blending of the state’s elite security with the provision of security for private companies is highly problematic. The large presence of state forces in the concessioned terrain of Minera Yanacocha implies that war is being declared on protesters exercising their right to demonstrate. Ultimately, it privatizes what should be a public service, sending a clear message to the protesters that the Peruvian government is at the side of the mining company. Police forces are allowed to use their public uniforms and arms when working for a private security company, emphasizing the message that the state is on the side of the mining company.
The violence of the armed forces in the example of the manifestation on the 29th of November 2011, as given in the example above, was from the hand of state elite forces DINOES. The DINOES are a special division within the Peruvian National Police, they are specialized in Special Operations. They are trained for war situations. This raises questions regarding their capacity to secure a private company. These forces are contracted by Minera Yanacocha, they receive orders from the company instead of a police captain. This also raises different ethical questions. The bloody incidents on the 29th of November 2011 can be seen as a possible consequence of the contracting of state elite forces by private companies.
Moreover, mining companies, as Minera Yanacocha, contract these state and private armed forces to clear land for mining activities. Often, this goes hand in hand with use of excessive force. Here you can find a testimony of the Chaupe Lozano family. In order to clear lands for the Conga mining project, armed forces, operating in the name of Minera Yanacocha, violently ignored any law on human rights. They were threatened, beaten and psychologically abused. “The mining company is an elephant, and you are just ants”; this phrase of one of the agents sums it up perfectly. The testimony:
The vague legal definitions of terms such as ‘hostile groups’, make it easier for the state to justify a military deployment. In the region of Cajamarca there is a continuous visual presence of armed forces. These forces are trained for combat and war, and have had very little training and experience in public order. This continuous militarization creates a tensioned environment, it increases the control of the government on the local people and has a discouraging effect regarding public protest. The Cajamarcan leaders of the social protest openly declared their misunderstanding for this militarization of the region, as protests against the Conga project always went by peacefully. The normalization of the militarization in the region of Cajamarca is very worrying.
The continuous militarization of this region was highlighted when the national government declared the state of emergency in the region on the 5th of December 2011. More specifically, the state of emergency was declared in the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín, Hualgayoc and Contumazá. Armed forces from all over the country militarized these four provinces during the state of emergency. This measure was taken after 11 days of peaceful protest in the region.
President Ollanta Humala justified this action saying that “he had the obligation to guarantee the life and public order of the people of Cajamarca, and to restore basic health and education services. They have to respect public and private property in Cajamarca.” He continued, “every possible means has been exhausted to establish dialogue and resolve the conflict democratically, but the intransigence of local and regional leaders has been exposed – not even the most basic agreements could be reached to ensure social peace and the re-establishment of public services.” This way blaming social leaders for the state of emergency, for the suspension of different civil rights.
A state of emergency is a unique governmental declaration as it means a grave suspension of civil rights. The ease of the Peruvian government to declare a state of emergency is worrying, as it normalizes this measure. On May the 28th the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the province of Espinar after armed forces killed two human right defenders during a protest against a project of the mining company Xstrata Copper – Tintaya.
In the night of May 31, during the regional strike in the region of Cajamarca against the Conga project, police forces provoked the protesters as they knocked over cooking pots and maltreated a young woman. People reacted and tear gas was used. Social leaders of the opposition are afraid the government tries, by provoking riots, to install a new state of emergency in the region of Cajamarca.