By Peter Cherry
On August 18, the old Peruvian state declared a “state of emergency” in the regions of Cusco and Arequipa in response to the roadblocks, pickets, and combative demonstrations around land, conditions created by the pandemic, and imperialist mining companies that displace peasants from their land. The largest culprit among these mining companies has been the English-Swiss copper mining company Glencore.
A week ago, the peasants won a partial demand for a monthly stipend for each adult impacted by the economic crisis, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. It was decided in this agreement that the money for the stipend would come from a fund that Glencore would transfer to the municipal government, however they refused to provide such funds, declaring that this money they provide to the fund has other purposes. Nevertheless, this concession represents decades of struggle against the corrupt Old State and its authorities.
In one of many combative actions, residents of the Espinar province blocked access to the city of Tintaya Marquiri with large stones. Up to one thousand workers picketed Coporaque Bridge, Huañumayo Bridge, the airfield, Amistad Bridge, and all other points of access to the city. In another action, the peasants marched to a former mining field where the offices of a company are located and, in response, the police used tear gas bombs, rubber and fire bullets to disperse those in protesting. During this clash, several parts of the pasture as well as the pumping station were set on fire. At one point there was even an attempt to seize the office with stones and slingshots.
This has all been part of an ongoing and intensifying struggle against mining companies in the area, which has included the burning of copper mining vehicles, blocking of roads, and other anti-eviction actions to preserve the health and safety of the masses living in the area. The Quecha and other indigenous people who live in this region suffer under the weight of imperialism and bureaucratic capitalism through such mining, though it was not the only grievance they have. Likewise, there have been concerns raised about how exposure to heavy metals has poisoned the residents as well as against police violence.
Reaction has inevitably responded to the rebellion of this last week as they have in the past. By using their “state of emergency” to refuse any negotiation with organizers, they have justified using live ammunition against protesters to break their resistance. The old state has likewise resorted to torture in an attempt to frighten them from continuing their fight, with women protesters reporting that they have been molested while under custody. Police have already fielded over 1,000 officers in just one confrontation, which resulted 4 peasants being killed, 15 peasants and 30 police officers being wounded, and another 15 peasants being arrested.
The history of this resistance to mining dates back to 2012 and continues on, demonstrating the steadfastness of the peasant struggle in Peru and the heroism of the people in confronting imperialist projects.
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