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Long a source of conflict in Peru, gold-lust has reared it's ugly head again. Protests against the country's largest gold-mining project are being repeatedly met with violent police repression. Four activists have been killed in the past three days - along with over twenty people injured and prominent organisers arrested - after the government declared a state of emergency in three northern provinces.
The $4.8 billion (£2.5 billion) mine, located in the state of Cajamarca, is majority owned by US company Newton Mining. Work on the project was suspended in late 2011 after indigenous communities pointed out to the dimwits running Peru that it threatened their water supply. Whilst the mine was momentarily stalled, president Ollanta Humala gave the green light again in June stating Newton had agreed to stricter environmental measures.
The protests come hot on the heels of opposition to Xstrata's copper mine in the province of Espinar, which resulted in at least four fatalities and the arrest of mayor Oscar Mollohuanca for allegedly leading a group of protesters into clashes with police. Mollohunca - who told a Peruvian radio station that police were shooting from point blank at protesters – is being held without charge for five months in 'preventative custody'.
All the death has been a bit embarrassing for the Peruvian government, prompting them to try and appear sympathetic to another indigenous community in the Pastaza River basin. The residents there have staged several peaceful protests recently against foreign oil companies which operate in the Amazonian region, playing fast and loose in terms of spills and contamination.
PM Oscar Valdes leapt into action when the threat of more direct actions emerged, promising a high-level investigation into the country's biggest oil producer PlusPetrol. A local lawyer said, "They (government officials) were finally there to see how serious it is. They could see that the people were prepared to take the river, to take the airfields, to take over the company's operations." How far the government will be prepared to scrutinize PlusPetrol, referred to as a 'political sacred cow', is questionable.
The death toll parallels a recent report from Global Witness, which found that environmental campaigners have been killed at a rate of one per week over the past three years. In keeping with its bloody history, South and Central America feature prominently amongst the worst offenders, with Brazil - the hosts of last months farcical Rio+20 summit – at the top.
Since the election of left-leaning President Humala last year there has been a widespread crackdown on any type of dissent. Critics are accusing him of authoritarianism as he struggles to repress a wave of anti-mining protests. For example George Santos, regional president in Cajamarca, is under criminal investigation for 'incitement to rebellion'. His crime? Accusing Humala of going back on his election promises of access to clean water, which apparently constitutes an “attempted coup” (according to Peru's chief prosecutor Jose Pelaez...).
Thatcher-haters party into the night.
In solidarity with 235 Sussex University workers whose jobs are threatened with privatisation, protesters from around the country converge on Sussex University's campus (alread site of an ongoing occupation), invade management HQ and make a bonfire out of corporate files.
Three US activists in jail as federal authrorities target anarchists
Autonomous villages seiged by paramilitaries.
A rare victory was achieved last Tuesday for the indigenous cause, with a high-level court ruling the suspension of the construction of the Belo Monte dam on the Amazon’s Xingu River.
Indigenous resistance to Brazil’s mega Amazon dam project, Belo Monte, stepped up several notches recently following the arrest by tribal authorities of three engineers from Norte Energia, the corporation behind the dam’s construction.
Who'd have thought? Homophobia in the Hydrant bar, formerly the site of many a SchNEWS gig
Spanish miners riot and roadblock against government cuts