Sunday, July 3, 2011

Peru Indigenous Struggle for Justice

From Maryknoll News Notes, July/August 2011, Vol. 36, No. 4

On May 2, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns brought Trinidad Carlos Serna, a human rights lawyer from Peru, to the United Nations so that she could present the case of the indigenous people of Peru's Puno region and their great struggle against the devastation to their lands being caused by mining corporations with the collusion of the Peruvian government. While the information was well received by those who heard her compelling story, the Peruvian ambassador to the UN remained completely unresponsive.

On June 24, five people were killed and dozens injured when those protesting the mining concessions broke fences and ran into the airstrip of Juliaca's international airport. Following is a public statement from Catholic leaders in the diocese:

Faced with the tragic events of June 24, as priests, nuns, committed laity and various institutions within the Diocese of Puno, we consider it our evangelical duty to speak out publicly. First, our condolences to the families of the peasant brothers who have been killed and we express our solidarity to the more than 30 persons who were wounded by bullets and buckshot, some of whom were maimed for life.

We find that the inhabitants of the Ramis river basin for years have been peacefully lobbying the central government for effective action against the semiformal and informal mining that is polluting their fields, their animals and their own lives. In making this claim they are also asking for the health of us all, because the pollution reaches Lake Titicaca and affects the food and water we consume in the region.

The government of Alan Garcia, however, did not take seriously the requests, took a pro-mining stance, and did not meet the covenants agreed upon while they let time pass until conflict broke out, as happened in Moquegua, Bagua and Islay. And when in the midst of the strike, a mob tried and partly took the city's Manco Capac airport, the DINOES police and those of the USE from Lima, backed by the soldiers stationed in Puno, acted not as deterrents, but responded by bullying and shooting at close range. There, people like Antonio Campos Huanca, who were not protesting, were killed and others were injured.

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