Carmelo Martinez; “A mining project in favor of the development and well being of the poorest is necessary”.
The conflict on the mining exploitation in the region of Cajamarca, en northern Peru, has caused five deaths in the beginning of July. The bishop of the region is Jose Carmelo Martinez Lazaro, an Augustinian Recollect who has been at the head of the diocese for the past 7 and a half years and knows very well the reality of the Andes in Peru, where he has been working as a missionary almost all his life. Msgr. Martinez explains at the official website of the Order the painful situation which the people live.
The conflict on the mining exploitation in the region of Cajamarca, Peru has caused the death of five persons last July 3. The regional government of Gregorio Santos is opposed to the plans of the central government presided by Ollanta Humala. From Lima they have given the go signal to the “Proyecto Conga” which encourages the Yanacocha mining -controlled by the North American Newmont- and is already exploiting other mines in the region. However, this project is rejected by the greater part of the population of Cajamarca because of fear that it may affect the environment. On the other hand, it has the blessing of many other sectors who do not want the region to loose the investment of 4,800 million dollars. The Church, with Msgr. Martinez at the head, is trying to let the two parties sit down for dialogue, the only way to solve the mining conflict.
Q. What is the origin of the situation that is actually happening?
A. Yanacocha starts its exploitation 15 years ago. They take out 80% of gold and 15% of silver. 5% are surpluses among them are mercury and other heavy metals. All is bad. The principal problem of all that we have seen until now, beside the prepotency through which they entered, the deceit, and unfulfilled promises, was the spilling of mercury. Between 60 to 90 kilos were spilled within the range of 20 kilometers. Above all in a place called Choropampa. There was death on account of intoxication. In the months of October and November 2011, there was a strong movement against Yanacocha. The theme was “Conga no va”. But, curiously, the regional government has not interfered with the other two or three mining that during these past years have also started to explore gold, silver, copper in the zone.
Q. During this time there have been prolonged strikes and various attempts of failed dialogue….
A. There was a general strike from the month of November. And the themes were “Conga no va“, “Agua sí, oro no”, “El oro no se come”, “El agua es para siempre”, because the Conga project was expected to take away four natural lagoons. There are some 300 in the same zone. They were to use four.
It was quite an emboldened strike. It lasted a month and a half. There were two encounters between the central government and the different leaders of the region. Two presidents of the Council of Ministers went to Cajamarca. The first one was Salomon Lerner Ghitis, who was there on 28-29 of November. He was for dialogue, open and understanding. There were around 300 of us who gathered together with all types of authorities. We were all able to talk, but there was no conclusion; so a crisis came up. The main problem of Peru was Conga because, if Conga were to leave, 25 or 30 mining projects and 10 or 12 projects of petroleum and gas that they have in portfolio were to go with him. Here is the key to the progress of Cajamarca and the whole nation. Peru is developing because of the mine.
Posters by the streets of Cajamarca Lerner lost and they put as first minister Oscar Valdes. This was of most hardened hand. He already went to Cajamarca towards the 12th and 14th of December and the meeting was very selective. We were around 50 persons to the maximum, but the atmosphere was much warmer. Still there was no death, although thing was seen to come even then. In this second meeting the same thing took place as in the first. There was no agreement, the strike did not end and, that night, the Central Government declared a state of emergency for 60 days in the 7 of the 13 provinces of the region. The presence of the police and military increased and the meetings as well as manifestations were limited.
At the eve of Christmas, on the 20th of December, there was a petition to take away the state of emergency, since it was peace. And, effectively, they suspended it on the condition that the strike that was going on for a month and a half be ended. For a moment everything came out peacefully.
Q. But in less than six months everything has turned out complicated. A. In April, after the ferias, they again started the intimidations, insults and meetings in the Plaza de Armas of Cajamarca…. The regional government of Santos headed the whole protest. At his side is a priest Marco Arana, whom I had to suspend after founding a political party. And with them there is also, among others, Wilfredo Saavedra, an ex terrorist of MRTA, condemned to prison for 15 years, of which he served 10. All of them are most radical leftist, attuned to the Marxist, Leninist and Maoist ideology of Sendero Luminoso. Its symptomatic that none of the 13 provincial mayors is in agreement with them; not even one.
Q. What is your proposal?
Baptizing a child A. I am calling for dialogue through all means of communication. Let the president of the region and the national president talk. In order to hear from their lips what is it that he likes. I personally went there and they demanded from us all kinds of requirements: documentation, telephone… they sent us to the secretary. We told her that we wanted to talk with the regional president, to find out what we could do. She went out to talk to the president through a mobile phone. She told me that on his part he was willing to have a meeting with me. We agreed to meet each other at 8 o’clock on the following day. The president did not come. At 8:45 the vice president appeared.
In the statement that I had published on November 30, 2011, I said that we are still in a time of revising, correcting what has been trodden, for that it is necessary that the parties set aside the use of force, putting before all else the national, regional and local project in favor of the progress and welfare of all, especially the poorest. A project in favor of the rights of the communities, allows necessary commercial initiatives in order to generate work and conserve the marvels God has given us.
Now, as it was and more that ever, I believe it is possible.
SEPTEMBER 2010 · PERU. Haren Alde will fight children’s malnutrition in the Andes with a better kitchens project