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On July 6th, in a preliminary judgement, a court in Puno, Peru, sentenced Aymara leader Walter Aduviri to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of the crime of riot at the anti-mining protests of May 26, 2011, known as “Aymarazo”. The other nine leaders accused were acquitted.
Nevertheless, a final judgement on Aduviri is expected to be issued on July 18, which could still be appealed.
The leader, Chair in 2011 of the Front in Defense of Natural Resources of the Southern Area of Puno, will also have to pay, according to the July 6 judgement, 2 million soles (approximately 614,000 dollars) in damages. The prosecutor´s office had requested a sentence of 28 years of prison.
At the end of June, the Prosecutor´s Office had withdrawn charges against 8 of the 18 people prosecuted in the “Aymarazo” case, accused of aggravated extortion, riot and obstruction of justice, due to lack of evidence.
In 2007, then Peruvian president Alan García issued a decree declaring the Santa Ana mining project in Huacullani district, Chucuito province (Puno department) near the border with Bolivia, a public necessity.
In 2008, Canadian company Bear Creek Mining Corporation, which had been present in the area for years, became the owner of the project, aiming to exploit over 63 million ounces of silver over a period of 11 years, starting in 2012.
For the inhabitants of the southern area of Puno, mostly Aymara people, the mining operation would damage their agricultural activities and pollute their water sources, including Desaguadero River and Tititaca Lake, shared by Peru and Bolivia. They also denounced the violation of laws that banned mining or similar activities less than 50 km from the border.
For these reasons, the local inhabitants rejected mining in the area and started to mobilize demanding the repeal of the 2007 decree that declared Santa Ana a public necessity. They also demanded the annulment of all mining concessions in Puno department. In addition, they demanded the respect to the right to prior, free and informed consultation enshrined in Peruvian laws and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), ratified by Peru.
The strongest mobilizations took place from March to June, 2011, with road blocks and massive protests in the countryside and the city of Puno, with demonstrators arrested, injured and murdered. On May 26, when the Aymaras had been carrying out sit-ins for days outside public institutions, the offices of the General Comptroller of the Republic, the Governor´s Office and the Customs building were attacked. The demonstrators always denied their involvement in these actions.
International lawsuit against Peru and criminalization of the social protest
On June 24, 2011, the Peruvian government repealed the 2007 decree that authorized Santa Ana, and the project was suspended. In August 2014, Bear Creek filed a lawsuit against Peru at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, a World Bank body), under the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Peru. The company is demanding payment of 1.2 billion dollars for having their project suspended.
Despite this lawsuit, Bear Creek continues to promote other projects in the region, such as mining project Corani, also located in Puno department.
On June 26, Real World Radio presented a report by the Democracy Center ((Leny Olivera Rojas, Sian Cowman and Aldo Orellana López) and the organization Human Rights and Environment (DHUMA PUNO), which included an interview with lawyer Rodrigo Lauracio Apaza, member of DHUMA, on the criminalization of the social protest in Peru in the context of the “Aymarazo”. DHUMA is part of the National Coordination for Human Rights and the MUQUI Network in Peru. The report is available here: http://www.radiomundoreal.fm/9848-six-years-after-the-aymarazo
In this report, the Democracy Center and DHUMA PUNO warned that social organizations and their leaders in Peru are criminalized and stigmatized for rejecting mining and for being indigenous people. “The aggressive pro-mining policy that dominates the country has caused a great number of socio-environmental conflicts, displacements, and human rights violations”, they warned. “This policy is promoted by transnational corporations such as Bear Creek, which are the ultimate beneficiaries of resource extraction and the violation of the rights of communities that struggle to defend their territories”, concludes the report.
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