Commentary, Events

Protests and Concern Rock Cusco

Defending Their Land - Apurimac

Normally filled with rain, this year September is sunny and sufficatingly hot. It makes the most sun-loving person seek shade during the hotter hours of the day.

In our countryside it is worse. The lack of rain destroys seed plantings, damages animals, and breaks the slight economies of the struggling people dedicated to farming.

Our specialists attribute this phenomenon to El Niño, but all this is far from our worst problem. Social problems are arising as an accumulation of many unfortunate events.

First we say a general indignation among Cusqueños for the abuses of power by the government on the protestors of Apurimac, a department next to Cusco. The population there was protesting not only the environmental contamination due to the Las Bambas mine, but also the lack of interest on the part of the government to defend the interests of ordinary people.

They demand a more fair treatment, better opportunities for employment, and sustainable development for their region. In exchange they received forceful repression from the governmental forces that is more inclined to defend the interests of large private businesses, such as the mining companies, than those of the common person.

We have seen similar actions from the government in the nearby Department of Arequipa. Because of its proximity to Cusco, it is considered a sister state.

People in Arequipa protested against the Tia Maria mining project. The protests there have been developing since the first of the year. Besides establishing an unproductive dialogue, the government seems to only use force against the population to repress the protests.

In both cases we have seen loss of life. In the case of Apurimac, three people from rural communities were killed in the protests.

A straw seems to have broken the camel’s back for the people of Cusco. It pushed them from their complacency. The straw was the passage of Legislative Decree number 1198 that gives the state the right to give as concessions portions of our national monumental heritage, the sites left by our ancestors.

This all made the ears of our town stand up. People began asking what is the government doing. The people’s spirits were already high but Cusco lives from tourism. Every year we receive around 2,500,000 tourists and they provide the principle economic activity for our city and region. They were surprised the government would make a degree that seemed unbelievable by the majority of the population.

As a result the various civil organizations of our city gathered—workers, merchants, unions, professional schools, students, teachers, rural organizations, among others—took the first step of entering the streets of our city to protest against the government’s actions in the mines and in its thought to privative management of our crucial tourist sites.

The measure brought together many people who shared indignation at the government’s actions. The bitterness was widespread.

The news that our fellows in Apurimac had died made the protests even stronger as did the general disinterest on the part of the government for the opinions and feelings of civil society.

People are prepared to continue with measures of struggle and have announced a likely a regional paralyzation of social and economic activity in order to get the attention and demand the retraction of the aforementioned legislative decree.

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