Although political violence against investors is not a common practice, a series of protests, some violent, have taken place in or near communities with extractive industry operations. Although environmental concerns were often the cited pretext, in many cases protestors sought social infrastructure investments not provided by the government. Ideological opposition to foreign mining firms, not opposition to mining itself, often leads to protest in communities where informal mining by Peruvians covers the landscape.
Occasionally, well-organized groups, such as the Ronderos (local self-defense groups that were instrumental in combating the Shining Path terrorists in the 1980s and 1990s) or NGOs, exaggerate a local community's concerns, bringing in protestors from outside the local community to foment protests against the companies. In several incidents in recent years, local authorities led strikes against large foreign mining companies in an effort to secure additional funds or development promises from the companies.
During 2010, groups blocked roads in protest of extractive industry operations, hydroelectric projects, restrictions on informal gold mining, gas exports, and the Government's coca eradication policies. In several of these protests, police and civilians were killed. In 2009, a two-month-long protest of indigenous communities in the Amazon against a series of legislative decrees culminated in a violent clash on June 5, which left 24 police and 10 civilians dead. Protesters believed the decrees were legislated without proper prior consultation with indigenous communities. Some protesters also complained of the content of the decrees, and said the decrees favored private investors and extractive industries over indigenous communities.
In September 2007, municipal authorities of three northern Piura department towns managed to hold a legally-disputed “referendum,” where some citizens voted overwhelmingly to reject a large copper mining project in their region, stalling its development. In that same area, thousands of small illegal miners began to carry out mining activities some months after said “referendum,” causing severe environmental pollution without any corresponding protests from NGOs or municipal authorities.
In 2009, several NGOs instigated opposition to a large copper mine development in Arequipa department, under the argument that the mine would deprive their farms of water and poison it. When the company offered not to use river water but to build desalination facilities to use sea water, the farmers still opposed the project, and the project’s fate is undetermined. Concerns over the titling of indigenous lands and subsoil concessions continue to be potential sources of conflict, particularly in the Amazon region.
Since the beginning of the Garcia Administration, Cabinet ministers and often the Prime Minister have become personally involved in negotiating a resolution to protests. The government established a commission in late 2006, with a representative from each ministry, to prevent and resolve social conflicts. In 2009, the Prime Minister mandated each ministry to form its own conflict prevention unit, and in 2010 the Prime Minister elevated the Council of Ministers’ own unit to become the Office of Social Conflict Management, which, with USG assistance, now coordinates the inter-ministerial commission.
In addition, various NGOs have become involved in conflict resolution activities. At the same time, the National Society of Mining and Petroleum (SNMPE), as well as the government, have become involved in assisting local communities to access the extractive industry canons (funding for social projects) as a way to both stimulate local development and head off social conflicts. Although these efforts have been effective in some mining regions, in others, social conflicts have continued or expanded.
Violence remains a concern in the coca-growing regions. The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist organization continues to operate in these areas, financing its activities with drug trafficking proceeds. Sendero Luminoso is presumed to have killed at least than 9 civilians, 2 police officers, and 4 members of the military, and committed more than 120 acts of violence in coca-growing areas during 2010. Sendero killed 26 civilians, 3 police officers, and 19 military members in 2009, and was responsible for around 100 incidents that year. President Garcia reauthorized 60-day states of emergency in parts of Peru's four departments where the Shining Path operates, suspending some civil liberties. In the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), the state of emergency gives the armed forces additional authority to maintain public order.
There is little government presence in the remote coca-growing zones of the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Apurimac-Ene River Valleys. The U.S. Embassy in Lima restricts visits by official personnel to these areas because of the threat of violence by narcotics traffickers and remaining columns of the Shining Path.
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