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Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 11 No. 3, July 2011, pp. 420–439. Environmentalism and Social

Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 11 No. 3, July 2011, pp. 420–439.

Environmentalism and Social Protest:

The Contemporary Anti-mining Mobilization in the Province of San Marcos and the Condebamba Valley, Peru


During recent years, a rapid expansion in large-scale mining activity has generated a host of protests in Peru, as rural populations have attempted to defend their livelihood and environment.This article examines the genesis and trajectory of one such mobilization that emerged in the province of San Marcos and neighbouring Condebamba Valley, located in the northern Andean department of Cajamarca. The social movement’s internal organization, strategy, tactics and repertoires of struggle are analyzed. Practices inherited from the rondas campesinas (nightwatch patrols) are seen to have exercised an important influence in shaping its modus operandi, which contrasts in key respects with the behaviour of other anti-mining protests in Peru, such as Majaz.The article concludes with an assessment of how shifting power relations within the state might influence the chances of successful collective action in the countryside.

Keywords : Peru, social movements, rondas campesinas , anti-mining protest, decentralization


Against a backdrop of neo-liberal policies devised to facilitate investment opportunities for foreign capital and fuelled by an exponential rise in world commodity prices, since the early 1990s large-scale mining and hydrocarbon operations in Peru have grown significantly, stimu- lating a plethora of often bitterly contested disputes involving rural communities (Bebbington 2007). Similar trends can be observed in neighbouring republics. ‘Resource wars’ are currently occurring throughout the Andean region, as peasant smallholders concerned to defend liveli- hood and environment have pitted themselves in seemingly hopeless David and Goliath style contests against powerful multinational corporations and central governments of both the left (Evo Morales, Rafael Correa) and right (Alvaro Uribe). 1 The struggle over land and natural resources attained international attention through events in the Amazonian province of Bagua on 5 June 2009, when a protest against the García administration’s concession of petroleum exploration rights on indigenous territory sparked a confrontation costing the lives of ten

Lewis Taylor, Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool, 86 Bedford Street South, Liverpool L69 7WW, UK. E-mail: Fieldwork for this paper was conducted in Peru during March–April 2008 and December 2008–January 2009. The article could not have been written without the collaboration of participants in the mobilization analyzed here. Their support is gratefully acknowledged, but in order to avoid potentially untoward consequences, they remain anonymous.Where individual names are cited, the information is already in the public domain. I would

also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their critical comments on an earlier draft.

1 Bebbington (2009) provides an insightful discussion on ‘new extraction’ conflicts.

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civilians and 24 dead police. Indeed, with commendable prescience, on 31 May 2009 the highly respected Defensoría del Pueblo (Ombudsman’s Office) published a report that identified 268 social conflicts in Peru, of which 79 per cent were deemed ‘live’; some 38 per cent related to mining activities. Confrontations have not only involved those opposed to natural resource exploitation. Individuals engaged in illegal operations that usually cause dire environmental consequences have increasingly entered into battle against state authorities keen to restrict their work. During April 2010, a protest in the Amazonian department of Madre de Dios resulted in six informal gold miners being shot by the police. In the same month, a clash between approximately 6,000 informal prospectors and 1,000 police in the southern department of Arequipa produced a similar number of dead protesters and 80 injured – among them eight police who received gunshot wounds. Within this wider scenario, in its latest report (June 2010) the Ombudsman’s Office recorded 250 conflicts, 169 being categorized as active. Of these, 18 were occurring in the northern highland department of Cajamarca; 13 (11 ‘live’, two latent) concerned mineral extraction (Defensoría del Pueblo 2010, 5). This paper focuses on one of these encounters: the social movement that emerged post-2005 in the province of San Marcos and the adjacent Conde- bamba Valley, a mobilization that gained the participation of thousands of smallholders and also attracted support among an increasing swathe of the urban population. The catalyst for collective action followed moves by the Peruvian subsidiary of Brazilian corporation Vale to exploit gold and copper deposits located at Cerro Mogol, a mountain overlooking the small settlement of Cachachi, after the administration of Alejandro Toledo (2001–2006) ceded exploration rights over 13,000 hectares in 2004. 2 Like elsewhere in Peru, this concession directly threatened the livelihood of peasant farmers by granting the multinational legal authority to drill on cropland, pasture and woodland. Furthermore, excavation raised serious environmental concerns, especially over the distribution and pollution of (frequently scarce) water supplies used for farming pursuits and human consumption. 3 To compound matters, mining in this particular location had the potential to exercise a deleterious impact on agriculturalists and ecology far removed from the immediate area of operations. Cerro Mogol forms part of the headwater feeding the fecund Condebamba Valley (one of the largest and most fertile inter-Andean basins in Peru), and provisions a river system that eventually flows into the Marañón, an important tributary of the Amazon. The project not only envisaged open cast operations requiring the movement of substantial quan- tities of rock and consumption of massive amounts of water. Mineral extraction would also utilize cyanide and mercury, exacerbating the potential negative environmental and social consequences of exploitation. 4 The risks and possible impact on the local population were compounded by the fragile state of the peasant economy. Over 70 per cent of agriculturalists cultivated minifundios of less than five hectares, their situation mirroring Richard Tawney’s

2 The state-owned enterprise Vale do Rio Doce was privatized and renamed Vale. The second largest mining corporation in the world after BHP Billington, it comprises the world’s biggest producer of iron ore and possessed

cash reserves of £12.6 billion on its balance sheet at the end of financial year 2008.

3 For informed, detailed discussion regarding the livelihood impact of mining activity on Cajamarca’s rural

economy, see Bury (2004, 2005).

4 Indicative of the remarkable insensitivity that came to characterize its treatment of the local population, the Peruvian subsidiary of the Brazilian corporation was initially named ‘Miski Mayo’, which perversely signifies ‘río dulce ’ (‘sweet river’) in Quechua. In 2008 the enterprise renamed itself ‘Vale Perú’, to coincide with the switch in ownership of the parent organization in Brazil and also as part of a public relations rebranding exercise in the face of increasingly hostile media coverage.The title Miski Mayo will be employed when referring to events prior to this name change, to reflect the content of internal company documents, official correspondence, social movement declarations and newspaper articles. For a review of different perspectives on mining as a pathway to development, see Bebbington et al. (2008).

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famous description likening the rural Chinese to a man standing up to his neck in water and

leading a life so precarious ‘that even a single ripple is sufficient to drown him’. In consequence, the slightest disruption to prevailing complex household survival strategies constructed around

a melange of farm and non-farm pursuits could propel smallholders into the ranks of the urban

dispossessed, eking out an uncertain hand-to-mouth existence. 5 A survey of contemporary Latin American rural social movements has emphasized the need to ‘look back at historical processes’, while also noting that ‘new peasant movements defend sustainable agriculture, reduced land concentration, reduced dependency on environmentally destructive techniques, and fuller utilization of indigenous inputs such as native seeds’ (Welch and Fernandes 2009, 4). It was further observed ‘how important peasant movements have been to democratization processes in Latin America’ (Welch and Fernandes 2009, 5). Another review bemoaned that ‘few of these studies provide a full understanding of the internal dynamics of the agrarian movements themselves’ (Borras et al. 2008, 179). When considering recent develop- ments in Peru’s mining sector, Arellano-Yanguas noted that studies adopting a ‘resource curse’ perspective have traditionally ‘given insufficient attention to the relevance of local political dynamics and to the actors involved in them’; even though ‘analysis at the sub-national level is crucial’ for understanding the origins and trajectory of conflicts, as well as their outcomes, ‘the local dimension remains unsatisfactorily examined’ (2008, 12, 14). Following such admonish- ments, this article opens with a summary of the historical antecedents to the San Marcos– Condebamba Valley mobilization, before proceeding to analyze the movement’s strategy and tactics, internal organization, the problems activists encountered and moves made to surmount these. The discussion also engages with relevant literature on the characteristics of other anti-mining protests in Peru (particularly Majaz), as well as considering their wider implications vis-à-vis governance, political legitimacy and shifting power relations within the Peruvian state. It concludes with an assessment of how the latter might affect the chances of successful collective action by rural people.


To comprehend the warp and woof of the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley movement, it is necessary to pass brief comment on the populace’s socio-political experiences over recent decades. During the reformist military government of Juan Velasco (1968–1975), freeholders,

estate tenants and workers agitated in favour of land reform. Simultaneously, activists affiliated to the left and the Confederación Campesina del Perú (at the time the nation’s largest independent peasant syndicate), mounted land invasions aimed at accelerating the expropriation process and implementing a grassroots via campesina alternative to the agrarian production co-operatives being established by the Ministry of Agriculture in a top-down fashion. Following

a crime wave in the countryside during the early 1980s, rondas campesinas (nightwatch patrols)

were created in an effort to eradicate rustling, petty theft and, once socially embedded, expanded their remit to settling all manner of inter- and intra-village disputes. They soon developed a quick, cheap and honest alternative system of transparent justice outside the corrupt and overtly bureaucratic official system that usually discriminated against rural people. 6 Despite registering considerable success, which garnered the rondas widespread popular support, especially when compared with compromised state institutions, post-1982 these grass-

5 Additional data on local agrarian structure and household economy is available in Taylor (2006, 71–80).

6 On the origins of the rondas campesinas in Peru’s northern highlands, see Gitlitz and Rojas (1983). Starn (1999) provides the fullest account of their structure and operation.

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roots entities quickly found themselves caught in the crossfire between Partido Comunista del Perú – Sendero Luminoso (PCP-SL) insurgents and the repressive organs of the Peruvian state. Prominent figures involved in the nightwatch patrols received death threats from the PCP-SL, as guerrilla commanders wished to control all social and political activity in the countryside. For their part, army and police officers viewed the rondas with considerable suspicion, fearing that they might be ‘captured’ by the insurgents, an alignment that would have greatly compli- cated counter-insurgency operations.This resulted in high-profile activists being falsely accused of ‘terrorism’, suffering repeated detentions, beatings and the threat of being handed a 20- or 30-year jail sentence after a summary 30-minute trial conducted by a ‘faceless’ judge. Unsur- prisingly, in the face of such hostility, by the mid-1980s most rondas campesinas in San Marcos and the Condebamba Valley had collapsed. 7 The struggle for land reform during the 1970s and the bitter experience of civil war during the following decade has, nevertheless, facilitated the creation, as well as influenced the strategy and tactics, of the protest movement against attempts by Miski Mayo to open a mine at Cerro Mogol. Living through such turbulent times compelled an older generation of organizers to hone their political skills. It also instilled a circumspect approach to dealings with state authorities and logically produced a degree of ‘militant burn out’. In consequence, an examin- ation of the contemporary movement reveals that the layer of compañeros politically involved from the Velasco period have taken a back seat, while their sons and daughters figure promi- nently among the network of activists who provide backbone and coherence to the recent mobilization.That said, the oldsters have not withdrawn altogether, allowing the movement to benefit from a valuable font of social capital. Parents who cut their political teeth in the late 1960s and 1970s employ their long experience to proffer advice on an array of practical matters, such as the drawing up of demands to be presented to officialdom and the meticulous organization of demonstrations. Their input on how best to handle confrontations with the police, or respond to provocations emanating from armed vigilantes hired by the Company, has been particularly beneficial during certain intense moments in the struggle.The well-developed network of urban contacts they had cultivated over several decades could also be employed to good effect when it became necessary to liaise with local and regional officials (both elected and bureaucratic).Ties with strategically placed journalists provided a conduit to help promote the movement’s cause through the national and local media.


It has been noted that agrarian movements pass ‘through the natural dynamics of ebb and flow over time’, and the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley protest conforms to such a pattern (Borras et al. 2008, 184). For analytical purposes, the trajectory of the struggle can be divided into three phases: (i) prostelytizing in hamlets and villages in order to garner grassroots support and construct a network for mobilization during 2005–2006; (ii) the initiation of multiple ‘reper- toires’ of direct action, 2007–2008; and (iii) a period of open protest combined with politicking in and around state institutions, which eventually produced a halt to drilling operations at Cerro Mogol (December 2008) and the withdrawal of Vale Perú’s heavy equipment (April 2009), and culminated in a legal victory for activists being accused of public order offences (December


As is commonplace with social movements, the initial task was to construct a social base.The first inkling the denizens of San Marcos gleaned about the project to mine Cerro Mogol

7 Additional information concerning the trajectory of the rondas campesinas at this juncture can be found in Taylor


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happened in November 2004, when the local mayor invited Miski Mayo representatives to outline their plans at the cabildo abierto (open forum) held every Sunday morning in the municipality. Following this event, news spread and sparked debate, conducted formally via a succession of village meetings convened over 2005 and 2006.The message driven home at these gatherings held that although mining generated wealth, it only reached the pockets of a tiny minority. It was necessary to defend sustainable agricultural development that would provide future generations with a living.The consequences of polluted water supplies, as had occurred in other areas where mining took place, also comprised a potent argument. Historical ‘memory’ in the shape of the legacy of the rondas campesinas proved invaluable in getting the movement started and facilitated the swift building of support. In this regard, the crucial point is that the nightwatch patrols created during the early 1980s still enjoyed widespread legitimacy among the rural population. Although the rondas had ceased to exist by the late 1980s, or in a few cases operated clandestinely below the radar of army and guerrilla, they continued to be viewed with a mixture of nostalgia and pride, having emerged as an authentic peasant solution to peasant problems. A model for village-level organization was therefore readily available, one that was comprehensible, commanded loyalty and was based on deep-rooted community traditions of discussing issues in open assemblies. 8 Minds became concentrated in December 2006 when an access road was constructed to the excavation site, and by the time drilling commenced in April 2007 a rapid rebirth of the rondas campesinas had occurred. The existence of networks constructed around an adequate level of trust and possessing the capacity to speedily transmit and act on information explain this development. 9 Tellingly, such a quick response and recuperation in grassroots organization was facilitated by efforts made during the mid-1990s (under trying circumstances in the face of hostility from the Fujimori regime) by the aforementioned younger generation of compañeros who, encouraged by their parents, were determined to keep the rondas alive. Furthermore, through their commitment they were already well known to the local population and possessed a web of contacts within San Marcos’ villages and hamlets that could be quickly tapped into once the mining issue arose.Their fathers’ history of activism and positive reputation also acted to enhance mutual confidence – trust being a valuable commodity in a social context where caution and suspicion had deepened due to the civil war – facilitating acceptance of their message.As a result, by early 2007 the rondas campesinas emerged reinvigorated to an extent that they had attained greater strength and density throughout the countryside than when PCP-SL cadres began to target the area in 1982. 10 This cat’s-cradle of base organizations underpinned the creation of the Frente de Defensa de la Cuenca del Río Cajamarquino (Front for the

8 Importantly, participants in the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization did not only rely on their own ‘historical memory’. Links were established with other anti-mining protests, particularly those at Tambogrande and Majaz (Piura) and against Minera Yanacocha in Cajamarca. Activists in San Marcos could take heart from notable victories (such as occurred at Tambogrande in December 2003, when the Manhattan Minerals Corporation was banned from excavating), as well as learn from their experiences and mistakes.Visits were made from San Marcos to talk through issues confronting the movement with participants in other struggles. This repeated certain practices from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the denizens of San Marcos travelled to the provinces of Chota and Bambamarca to learn from communities that had already created rondas campesinas. In the new struggle, the nightwatch patrol movement throughout the departments of Cajamarca and Piura provided an established network

of contacts that could be readily tapped.

9 The existence of a historical ‘memory’ of organization in the countryside, which enables ‘reactivation’ and anti-mining protest movements to take root, has also been emphasized by De Echave et al. (2009, 180, 183, 195).

10 The organizational drive at this juncture garnered valuable support from rural schoolteachers, a number of whom came from peasant households, still worked the land and possessed useful internet skills, which assisted the rapid circulation of information inside and outside Peru. They were also comfortable in both rural and urban milieu, a blurring of the town–country divide noted by Kay (2008, 925–6).

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Defence of the Cajamarquino River Basin) in spring 2007, an umbrella organization that acted as a coordinating vehicle for propaganda and mobilization.

Once the desired level of base support had been established, the movement proceeded to adopt a variety of measures aimed at raising its regional and national profile.The first significant protest within the second phase of the struggle took place on 21 May 2007, when approxi- mately 400 campesinos from ten villages marched on the drilling site intent on conducting an

inspección ocular ’ (‘direct observation’) to acquire first-hand knowledge of Miski Mayo’s opera-

tion.At the entrance to the site the protesters found themselves confronted by armed vigilantes hired by the mining company, who were backed by villagers from the adjacent peasant community of Mogol, some of whom at this stage favoured exploration on their land (to be discussed below). Fearful of a violent confrontation, two elected representatives of the Regional Government appeared on the scene and, through promising to meet a commission of repre- sentatives to discuss grievances on 13 June at the head office located in the town of Cajamarca, managed to persuade the demonstrators to disperse. When negotiations failed to address concerns satisfactorily, the Frente de Defensa convened a second action, to commence on 9 August 2007. An estimated 2,000 smallholders participated in this mobilization, which deter- mined to conduct another ‘ inspección ocular ’. As the organizers had notified the authorities of their intentions, upon arrival at the entrance to Miski Mayo’s concession they found themselves faced by approximately 80 armed police, who, being heavily outnumbered, allowed a delegation into the exploration area to examine the drilling platforms. A mass squat then commenced outside the main gates, so preventing all movement of personnel or equipment. A hastily convened general assembly adopted a collective decision to continue the blockade. It also resolved that a delegation consisting of high-ranking functionaries from the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Cabinet Office in Lima, accompanied by officials from Cajamarca’s Regional Government, present themselves to hear grievances and negotiate a settlement.With the blockade holding firm and gathering attention in the national press, on 15 August 2007 this commission arrived at Cerro Mogol and, under the psychological pressure emanating from such a large and determined body of protesters, accepted a number of their central arguments. It was agreed that mining activity was inappropriate at Cerro Mogol given its strategic position vis-à-vis water supplies. A demand that heavy earth-moving equipment be removed from the site was also granted by the authorities, who further conceded that a ‘ comisión técnica ’ would be dispatched from Lima to undertake a more detailed study into the wider environmental implications of mineral exploitation. Despite the apparent conciliatory stance adopted by these functionaries, the protesters’ long memories of dealing with the state fed doubt as to their trustworthiness.The blockade therefore continued until 26 August, being sustained by food supplies and blankets supplied by the municipality of San Marcos, as well as donations originating from solidarity networks based in Europe. 11 Scepticism appeared justified, when on 29 August a letter from Miski Mayo execu- tives to the Regional Government stating that the Company had no intention of suspending operations at Cerro Mogol, was leaked by a sympathetic functionary employed inside the receiving institution. Such duplicity gave impetus to a ‘hunger march’ (‘ marcha de sacrificio ’) from the Condebamba Valley to Cajamarca.This took place between 5 and 7 September 2007, again sustained by provisions donated by the municipality, and culminated with demonstrations outside the prefect’s office and the headquarters of the Regional Government.While the action

11 The support network operated in an informal manner and never attained the level of institutional backing (e.g. from OXFAM or the Peru Support Group) enjoyed by the Tambogrande and Majaz mobilizations (De Echave et al. 2009, 38, 65).

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attracted considerable media attention and mostly sympathetic coverage in the press and local television, efforts to sustain pressure on the authorities led to the organization of an inter- provincial strike covering all of San Marcos and Condebamba. Held from 28 to 30 September 2007, this stoppage received widespread backing, paralyzing most commercial activity and transportation. Together the protest march and strike produced the desired effect. Employees in different state bureaucracies realized that the movement was gathering momentum and would not disappear, rendering some serious official response inevitable. Under the watchful gaze of 150 police, on 26 October 2007 a ‘ mesa de diálogo ’ (arbitration meeting) was held in the main plaza of San Marcos, where the populace could debate directly with representatives of Miski Mayo, the Regional Government, Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of Agriculture. This day-long meeting adjourned without reaching any significant or binding accords. It did, however, reveal differences in outlook between wholehearted support for the project by the Ministry of Energy and Mines and a more circumspect position voiced by officials from the other institutions, which did not go unnoticed. For many attendees the lack of concrete proposals represented an unsatisfactory outcome, sentiments that produced another protest march and blockade of the excavation site at Cerro Mogol (18 December 2007), an event that marked the end of the mobilization’s second phase. Analyzing the tactics employed to attain the strategic goal of preventing full-scale mining operations at Cerro Mogol, several features stand out. Direct action went hand-in-hand with a variety of behind the scenes initiatives aimed at minimizing the likelihood of outright state repression. To this end, links were established with the departmental Ombudsman’s Office located in the town of Cajamarca, whose personnel were informed regularly about planned demonstrations. Usually these letters would originate from elected representatives, such as Chanel Ruiz (the councillor for San Marcos province to the Regional Government), in the expectation that they would carry more weight in bureaucratic circles. The Ombudsman’s Office would then communicate with the prefecture, the local police headquarters and the public prosecutor’s office, reminding them that protest represented a constitutional right. A flavour of these letters can be gleaned from one such memorandum sent to the chief of police in December 2007, on the eve of a march from the Condebamba Valley to Cerro Mogol:

As on occasions protests relating to environmental issues have resulted in violent clashes,

causing violations of the human right of citizens, public employees and even death s


Ombudsman’s Office REQUESTS that, considering your responsibility for the main- tenance of public order, you adopt measures that comply with the State’s duty to guarantee full respect for human rights, in accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution.

Moreover, remembering that one of the principles that guide our public administration is to ‘serve the citizen’, we ask that your institution undertakes actions that contribute to the prevention of any violent incident. Priority should be given to dialogue and the avoidance of any irrational and disproportionate use of force, as is required by Article 10 of the National Police Code, Law 27238. 12

Through evoking the Constitution and Police Code, it was subtly hinted that unfortunate repercussions might befall personnel responsible for any inappropriate response that produced bloodshed.The Ombudsman’s Office also intervened to encourage police restraint by sending

12 Letter from the Ombudsman for Cajamarca to the departmental Chief of Police, General Víctor Fernández, 17 December 2007. A similar letter was written to the head of the judiciary.

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its staff (carrying official accreditations and wearing the institution’s uniform) to film demon- strations in a purposely conspicuous fashion. Other official paths were utilized by movement activists to advance the struggle.Through the intervention of sympathetic parliamentarians in Lima, the Committee of Andean and Ama- zonian Peoples for the Environment and Ecology was regularly informed about unfolding events in San Marcos and Condebamba, particularly legal violations committed by the Company and incidents concerning threats of violence. The chair of this congressional com- mittee would then forward copies of correspondence to the national Ombudswoman and Prime Minister, requesting an investigation and appropriate action. 13 Parallel to these initiatives, prosecutions were launched against the Company, alleging violations of articles in the Consti- tution and other legal provisions relating to environmental protection, the defence of agricul- tural property and water supplies. To add weight to the charges, these would be filed by sympathizers who occupied positions in the state’s own elected bodies, while friendly lawyers pursued cases at no cos t – a matter of some import given the constant shortage of cash. Public messages of support were also elicited from individuals positioned within the lower echelons of the civil arm of the state apparatus, such as the mayor of San Marcos, the local governor and justices of the peace. In another move designed to demonstrate wide backing and give the movement added legitimacy, on 15 August 2007 nuns and priests from different parishes in the San Marcos–Condebamba area issued an open letter stating their opposition to the mining project and calling for ‘the defence of life and the environment’. 14 Paralleling efforts to build multiple sources of support from within and outside the state apparatus, the movement implemented a number of internal procedures designed to improve its chances of success. Prior to embarking on a particular action, careful preparation at the village level was undertaken through the forum of the rondas campesinas . These discussions typically involved an assessment of current developments and the response best suited to advancing the movement’s agenda. If a public action was decided upon, agreement would be reached about how to behave and react to anticipated scenarios. Designated stewards were issued with bibs announcing that wearers were ‘official’ appointees from the Federación de Rondas Campesinas, a practice copied from the Ombudsman’s Office, whose officials don similar livery when monitoring elections, conducting training workshops and observing demonstrations. Once a protest commenced, these stewards placed themselves at strategic points at the front and sides of the main body, forming a ‘cushion’ between the rank-and-file, the police or any unofficial hostile elements intent on provocation. Owing to these measures, demonstrations unfolded in a disciplined fashion, as evinced during the first blockade of the drilling site: on 15 August 2007 participants detected a police informer within their ranks (who was posing as working for an environmental NGO), as well as four members of the intelligence services. They were con- fronted and overpowered, but not mistreated, having their notebooks confiscated before being handed back to the police. As will be seen, the thoughtful fashion in which actions were planned and conducted contrasted sharply with the less measured behaviour of certain Miski Mayo employees. The third (and to date final) phase in the struggle commenced in autumn 2008 and unfolded in a socio-political environment shaped by an increasingly hostile attitude to social movements on the part of central government. Egged on by the business community, the García admin- istration sought to impose its authority through a more vigorous application of legal measures.

13 Examples include the letter from Gloria Ramos, chair of the parliamentary committee, to Beatriz Merino, head of the Defensoría del Pueblo, 26 June 2008 (in the author’s possession).

14 Liberation theology elements within the Catholic Church have played important roles in the Tambogrande and Majaz protests, department of Piura (De Echave et al. 2009, 54, 263).

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Granting permission to the police for the use of firearms against protesters also became more relaxed, particularly in cases concerning extractive industry investments, which the executive regarded as a motor of GDP growth and tax revenue. Reflecting these shifting political sands, on 23 September 2008 arrest warrants were issued against four leaders of the San Marcos– Condebamba Valley mobilization. During the following month, the number of accused rose to ten: seven ronda campesina leaders, two rural schoolteachers and Chanel Ruiz, elected member to the Regional Government for the province of San Marcos. Being charged with organizing roadblocks, the prosecution called for 6–7 years’ detention, along with the imposition of a 20,000 soles fine (approximately £4,500), to be paid as compensation toVale Perú for disruption to its business. Recourse to legal measures failed to exercise the dampening impact desired by the Company and national government. Rather, litigation bred popular anger, being widely interpreted as a crude attempt to use the law in favour of a foreign multinational against the wishes of its own citizens. Such a sense of injustice provided the backdrop to additional mobilization. 15 In December 2008,Vale Perú had been issued with a judicial order to halt operations after being accused of falsifying signatures supposedly giving the enterprise permission to drill on campesino land. Three months later this decree was lifted and the enterprise aimed to recommence exploration on 30 April 2009, the site being protected by 50 police.This turn of events sparked a new wave of protests, including another marcha de sacrificio to lobby the Regional Government in Cajamarca (29 to 30 April 2009), followed by a mass demonstration in the town of San Marcos on 2 May. At this meeting Vale Perú was issued with an ultimatum: abandon the site by 10 May or an indefinite blockade would be instigated. Fearful that it would be unable to defend its concession despite the substantial police presence, the Company removed all its equipment. Attention now switched from Cerro Mogol to the legal dispute proceeding through the courts. With feelings running high in town and country, on 8 May 2009 the judge in San Marcos postponed sentencing the ten accused activists when, in a show of solidarity, demon- strations protesting the prosecutions occurred throughout the zone to the slogan ‘ ¡Agro sí, minería no! ’These actions proved a prelude to a department-wide mobilization, mounted by the Federación Regional de Rondas Campesinas de Cajamarca, which called for the annulment of all mining concessions in Cajamarca, in addition to an end to government attempts at the criminalization of protest and the harassment of ronda campesina leaders. Pressure on the street shortly bore fruit with breakthroughs in the official sphere. Following an internal Environment Impact Assessment, on 2 July 2009 the Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Unit within the Regional Government,Tulio Mondragón, declared at a press conference that:

‘Contamination will occur due to the extractive procedures Minera Vale Perú proposes to use at Cerro Mogol’, adding that agriculture should form the development priority in the area. 16 This decision was backed by the President of the Regional Government, Jesús Coronel, who

15 Arrellano-Yanguas also noted the ‘widespread public suspicion of collusion between Peru’s government and mining companies that erodes the authority and legitimacy of the state’, an outcome being that ‘the state is unable to fulfill its role as arbitrator between the people and the companies’ (2008, 27).

16 Mondragón’s declaration was reported in Panorama Cajamarquino (Cajamarca), 3 July 2009. In a timely study analyzing the bureaucratic micro-politics surrounding the Environmental Impact Assessment process conducted in relation to the Yanacocha gold mine in the neighbouring province of Cajamarca, Li (2009) found that the terms of reference and conduct of the inquiry were shaped by the consortium headed by the Newmont Gold Company, who furthermore contracted the US-based multinational consultancy enterprise charged with evaluating the consequences of exploitation on water quality and supply. It was noted that: ‘To date, only one major mining project at the EIA stage has been halted due to public opposition: the Tambogrande project in Northern Peru’ (2009, 220).The similar outcome registered in the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley case reflected growing public scepticism about the neutrality and transparency of such exercises, with locally elected representatives being particularly susceptible to the consequences of popular anger.

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opined: ‘This location should not be exploited or contaminated. Priority should be given to agriculture and livestock rearing, which is important in this zone’. 17 With the social movement’s argument gaining ground at the political level, more positive news emerged on the legal front. Besieged inside her modest courthouse in San Marcos by a mass protest and defended by only 13 police, on 9 July 2009 Judge María Castro had once again postponed sentencing the ten accused. Her verdict was finally announced on 21 August 2009, when 200 police surrounded the court and hundreds demonstrated through the streets.The ten accused received 4 years’ imprisonment and a 20,000 soles fine. Fearing a repetition of the tragic events at Bagua (and exhibiting uncharacteristic dispatch), however, the sentences were im- mediately suspended on appeal, with the compensation payment being reduced to 2,000 soles . Later, on 22 December 2009, the ruling was overturned by a higher court sitting in Cajamarca, charges being dropped and the file archived. 18


Although the protest movement had by July 2009 won an important battle, if perhaps not the war given that continuing high commodity prices might encourage another attempt at exploit- ing Cerro Mogol and the possibility exists that new legal proceedings might be initiated, this outcome was not achieved in an uncomplicated fashion. As the struggle unfolded it became necessary to confront several important problems. A first obstacle concerned schisms among the rural population, which were promoted by the mining company as part of a premeditated divide-and-rule policy. In a confidential report penned in 2004 by Dante Vera, an ex-member of the Maoist Patria Roja (‘Red Homeland’) party and currently an occasional consultant for Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, it was recommended that enterprises establish a ‘pro- tective cordon’ around their installations. This, Vera argued, was to be accomplished through channelling benefits to the denizens of strategically placed communities. 19 Following Vera’s recommendations, on 17 July 2005 Miski Mayo employees embarked on a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign aimed at building support within peasant communities located in the immediate vicinity of the concession. Barbecues were organized, with presents for the children, free drink, football competitions and similar entertainments. ‘Educational workshops’, delivered by graduates from the university in Cajamarca, emphasized the benefits that would flow from a fully functioning mine: jobs, social investment in village schools, housing, health centres, electrification, including road improvements to facilitate mobility and the transportation of agricultural produce. Considering the harsh living conditions in these villages, such blan- dishments understandably proved highly attractive, especially as Miski Mayo representatives promised to utilize the latest technology which, they argued, would avoid negative environ- mental consequences. Evidence of raised expectations is forthcoming in the various ‘ Actas de Permiso ’ (agreements) signed between Miski Mayo and local communities. In an initial accord struck with the hamlet of Huayanmarca on 5 September 2005, it was decided that the enterprise would: ‘Improve the road from Jesús to Huayanmarca. Furthermore, if the project proceeds, the Company agrees to

17 Panorama Cajamarquino, 3 July 2009.

18 Panorama Cajamarquino, 22 August 2009; La República, 22 August 2009; Panorama Cajamarquino, 11 January 2010.

19 The report stated that:‘Mining companies should regard a social investment plan as a crucial initiative, seeking an agreement or alliance with rondas campesinas at village, district and provincial level.The objective should be to construct a secure preventative social cordon (“un cordon social de seguridad preventiva”) to protect mining activity, before radical political forces (such as Patria Roja) end up controlling these organizations for their own purposes’ (Vera 2004, 106).

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give preference to citizens of this zone when hiring workers. It also undertakes to provide assistance in the areas of education, health, basic services and social programmes’. A second document, recording the minutes of a meeting held on 28 November 2006, stipulated that the multinational committed itself to ‘improve economic and social standards of living’ in Huay- anmarca. Significantly, it also indicated an increased desire within the community to obtain more specific promises from Miski Mayo representatives and provided an early inkling of growing concerns among some villagers:

During the assembly, Jesús Jara Ramos, Asencio Jara Bada, Marcelino Quispe Rumay, Teodoro Cerna López, Javier Cotrina Jara and others voiced a number of preoccupations. These involved questions of personal security, job stability, accidents at work, hours of work, the use of mining equipment, etc. These issues and concerns were addressed by company consultants, with the smallholders who spoke being satisfied with the guarantees provided. 20

Miski Mayo representatives informed villagers that the daily wage would be 25 soles (approxi- mately £5) for an eight-hour shift, paid weekly; if the workers used their own tools, an additional 5 soles would be paid; employees were prohibited from turning up for work drunk; health costs arising from work accidents would be covered by the Company; foremen would not come from the zone, in order to avoid favouritism when hiring, among other measures. Given these assurances, the document recorded that: ‘The smallholders give full consent to

and the Company will periodically inform about

the progress of the work being undertaken’. Similar agreements were struck with three adjacent communities, Mogol, Pashul and El Chirimoyo. This development forced activists enrolled in the Frente de Defensa to make important tactical decisions: how best to erode acquiescence to mining operations and consolidate a united front? To this question, the movement adopted a conscious policy to eschew violent confrontation and embark upon a counter hearts-and-minds campaign aimed at persuading pro-mining elements in the four communities to alter their stance.Arriving at this position was facilitated by practices common to the rondas campesinas vis-à-vis their treatment of rustlers and other felons; the legacy of the civil war also assisted in reaching this decision. Within the nightwatch patrols the emphasis has been on convincing people as to the error of their ways and reintegrating them into the community (Starn 1999). Memories of the armed conflict still being fresh in the minds of many country people, they needed little reminding about the potential dangers of using force to achieve their goal. Engagement in illegal acts would provide a convenient excuse for state repression, gift a propaganda opportunity to Miski Mayo and ultimately be counterproductive, in that it could provoke deeper schism within the rural population, so facilitating the Company’s objectives. 21 The ensuing exercise in ‘consciousness-raising’ bore fruit, as backing for Miski Mayo started to weaken, a trend encouraged by basic faux pas committed by the multinational. Despite pledges made in village assemblies, job creation never exceeded 56 workers employed when the access road was being constructed to the excavation site (December 2006) and soon declined to 30 watchmen employed on three shifts. Promised levels of financial compensation paid to

Miski Mayo to commence exploratio n

20 ‘Minutes of agreements and commitments between Huayanmarca village and consultants of the Miski Mayo Mining Company’, mimeo, 28 November 2006. Copies of these documents in my possession.

21 Engaging in uncontrolled violence and succumbing to provocations mounted by government actors or mining companies have been seen as factors that have led to the defeat of protests elsewhere in Peru (De Echave et al. 2009, 209–10).

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campesinos whose land was directly affected by drilling never materialized, while according to the original agreement, the Company stated that it would only undertake exploration opera- tions for three months, another commitment it failed to honour. Alienation also spread owing to the behaviour of the police detachment stationed to protect the mining camp: inadequately provisioned, the guardias resorted to living off the local population, extracted firewood without asking permission and dumped rubbish carelessly in the fields surrounding their billet. To compound matters, Miski Mayo employees falsified the signatures of some smallholders to purportedly grant the Company permission to begin drilling on their property. This act and other irritants that could have easily been avoided if the enterprise had acted with a modicum of political adroitness, helped build opposition within those communities that had initially favoured drilling, a sea change in attitude that can be appreciated from internal Miski Mayo documents. At the bottom of a receipt originally signed on 1 February 2007

between Isidoro Fernández for the multinational (his activities will be discussed presently) and the concerned smallholder, the Company’s representative added the comment: ‘Owner of land to access the site. States he never gave permission and that we tricked him’. Another receipt signed on 11 April 2007 contains the appendage, again in Fernández’ hand: ‘Today an opposition leader’, while a third dated 2 March 2007 records: ‘Owner of land. Now he is not in agreement’. Miski Mayo’s social base was undergoing erosion, while simultaneously the protest movement’s message was gaining traction. 22

A second thorny issue that emerged when Miski Mayo first appeared in the zone concerned

divisions between town and country. A sector of the petit-bourgeoisie settled in the town of San Marcos looked favourably on the project, anticipating that an upsurge in mining activity would increase sales in shops, restaurants and bars, as well as boost the market for rented accommodation. One activist from San Marcos noted: ‘Until now, we have been growing strongly in the countryside.With the townspeople it is more complicated. Many are undecided, as they hope to take advantage and make money.They expect more business, but don’t realize how they could be affected’. To counter such notions, the Frente de Defensa stressed the

potential health impact of polluted water supplies, while also highlighting the negative social consequences (increases in street crime and prostitution) that followed the opening of the Yanacocha gold mine outside the town of Cajamarca in 1993. In this campaign, support from the local radio station helped get the message across and weakened pro-Miski Mayo sentiment among townspeople. 23

A third and more tangled set of issues concerned the increasingly aggressive stance adopted

by the mining company and national government once the protest movement moved from consciousness-raising to direct action.The situation was aptly summarized by one activist, who opined:

We know we have to act with a lot of caution. Although some officials are sympathetic

to us, García’s APRA government want the project to go ahead at full steam.Therefore,

they will look for any excuse to arrest us and break the movement. We need to avoid

22 Raising expectations that mining companies failed to meet fueled mistrust, discontent and ultimately con- tributed to protest in other localities. One such case concerned the Las Bambas mine in the department of Apurímac (De Echave et al. 2009, 152–65). On this question, also see Arellano-Yanguas (2008, 25).

23 The movement’s ‘hearts-and-minds’ initiative was facilitated by the widespread disbelief that exists among the urban (and rural) poor vis-à-vis the positive development consequences of mining activity. Loudly promised benefits have bypassed the majority of households. Mistrust of water testing programmes financed and controlled by the mining corporations also abounds, as does a lack of confidence in the independence and competence of state institutions charged with overseeing environmental regulation and policing company activities. On these issues, see Bebbington and Bury (2009).

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giving them the opportunity.At the same time we must keep up the pressure. Getting the balance right is going to be hard, but we need to think carefully and find a way forward.

From within the multinational, the campaign of intimidation was orchestrated by Isidoro Fernández, a member of its community relations division, even though his attitude to ‘com- munity relations’ proved more akin to the Camorra than any advice forthcoming from social cooperation or development manuals. In an effort to silence Miski Mayo’s most vociferous

critics, Fernández assembled a group of thugs who engaged in a series of illegal acts. Unbowed, however, prominent figures in the mobilization denounced these threats to reporters from an important national newspaper. A few examples suffice to give a flavour of the actions being undertaken by Fernández and his band. Ronda campesina stalwart Francisco Roncal, from the hamlet of Campo Alegre in the CondebambaValley, informed journalists from La República that:

‘On 26 May 2007 in the district of Eduardo Villanueva, several delinquents who are employed as security personnel for Miski Mayo attempted to kidnap me’. 24 In similar vein, David and Walter Dilas, smallholders from Cochas, one of the first villages to adopt an unambiguous position of opposition to the mine, informed the press that on 3 June 2007 in a shop adjacent to the central market in San Marcos town they had been sworn at by Isidoro Fernández, who then prodded a pistol in their chest and stated that he was going to kill them.The presence of other members of the public helped calm the situation. 25 Perhaps the most disconcerting experience involved José Lezma, resident of Campo Alegre and a driving force behind the formation of rondas campesinas during the early 1980s. In 1988 he was elected president of the Federación de Rondas Campesinas de Cajamarca, the body that coordinated base organizations throughout the department. Lezma’s activism and high profile in local peasant politics led to his arrest on 18 September 1989, when along with five other members of the rondas campesinas , he was detained as a suspected ‘terrorist’. On 20 October

1990 their innocence was substantiated and they were released. This background gave his

dispute with Miski Mayo added poignancy, as the Company attempted to neutralize his opposition by launching a defamatory campaign in the local media, which unsurprisingly included claims ventilated on local television concerning the former charge of ‘terrorism’. Company officials also resorted to other underhand tactics, spreading rumours that he had asked for money, supposedly telling them he would discontinue his opposition in return for $30,000. When bribery failed to work, Isidoro Fernández resorted to violence, physically threatening

him in May 2006.Then on 22 July 2006, while attending the weekly market in the hamlet of Aguas Calientes, Lezma was surrounded by three men in civilian clothes, bundled into a vehicle and driven to his smallholding, where:‘They forced me to open my house, which they searched

expecting to find a rifle.They found nothin g

dedicate myself to personal affairs’. 26 A survey of those pinpointed for personal intimidation indicates that Fernández and his acolytes were targeting strategically placed activists, hoping that they could pressurize them to stop participating. A ‘decapitated’ movement would potentially lose direction, momentum and become easier to control. In any event, the ploy backfired seriously, primarily because the

activists concerned refused to be cowed; on the contrary, their resolve stiffened, helped through strong moral support from the rank-and-file. In another unexpected twist for Fernández and his associates, the publicity generated by such illegal acts attracted widespread sympathy for the

They warned me to stop being a leader and

24 La República (Lima), 1 July 2007.

25 According to the Dilas brothers, Fernández shouted: ‘You mother fuckers! Today it’s your turn to die know you. I have your photos’ (La República, 3 July 2007).

26 José Lezma denounced these actions in La República, 3 July 2007.

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individuals concerned, and with it, their cause; being targeted also consolidated their legitimacy inside the protest movement. Paradoxically, the threats even enhanced their personal safety. Media criticism of its behaviour in this regard lost Miski Mayo credibility. It raised concern in official and police circles about the resort to violence by non-state actor s – a sensitive question in the aftermath of the traumatic experiences surrounding the PCP-SL insurgency during the 1980s and 1990s. 27 Nor was the Company’s image enhanced by the unsavoury background of a number of individuals who staffed its ‘defence squad’. One 37-year-old from San Marcos had been undergoing prosecution since 2002 on drug dealing charges; another from the neighbouring province of Cajabamba was being tried for homicide. A third member happened to be an ex- senderista , who had taken advantage of the Repentance Law (passed in May 1992 by the Fujimori administration as part of its counter-insurgency campaign) to surrender to the authorities.While involved in the insurgency, he participated in the murder of the president of a local ronda campesina committee, as well as an assassination attempt against the sub-prefect of Otuzco province (October 1990). The hiring of such dubious characters, whose personal history was well known in the zone, helped deepen Miski Mayo’s public relations problem and contributed to the Company losing the propaganda war – while providing activists with another useful argument that could be employed in their efforts to win over wavering sectors of the rural population. 28 Although ultimately counter-productive, attempts to undermine the social movement through intimidation received succour following headline pronouncements emanating from the apex of the APRA government. In October 2007, Alan García published his ‘ El syndrome del perro del hortelano ’ (‘The Dog in the Manger Syndrome’) article, which firmly committed his administration to a neo-liberal agenda wholly favourable to foreign mining and hydrocarbon corporations.According to the President, the nation’s natural resources needed to be opened for exploitation forthwith, overriding objections by local communities and misguided environ- mentalists, who were holding the majority of Peruvians to ransom through hindering devel- opment. 29 Such unambiguous support voiced from the centre of power in Lima clearly provided an additional cause for concern among members of the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization, who happened to be engaged in direct conflict with one of the multi- nationals García was so enthusiastically promoting. How, then, to reconfigure relations with the state given this changing political conjuncture? This question attained growing salience over 2008 when, as mentioned, the APRA govern- ment resorted to the judicial system in an effort to undermine the protest.Although established links at the institutional and individual level in Lima continued to be accessed as necessary, during 2008 and 2009 extra effort was devoted to lobbying locally, with the Regional Government being pinpointed as a key player. These entities had been established in 2002, with strong backing from APRA, and possessed important powers over environmental affairs. 30

27 Once critical reporting about Miski Mayo’s defence squad appeared in the media, the departmental police chief sent a detachment of officers to requisition illegal arms in the vicinity of Cerro Mogol and summoned Company officials to a meeting to explain their actions. Isidoro Fernández was issued with an arrest warrant for attempted homicide in January 2008. Although not acted upon, the measure further tarnished his personal reputation, along with that of his employer.

28 Commenting more widely, Arellano-Yanguas records that the ‘arrogant behaviour of managers, miners and other mining actors generates a sense of grievance among the population’ (2008, 25).

29 García’s article appeared in El Comercio (Lima), 28 October 2007. See Bebbington (2009) for details of related newspaper articles and commentary.

30 Decree Law 28611, enacted in December 2004, devolved decision-making on various environmental questions to regional governments.

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Importantly, APRA had lost control of Cajamarca’s Regional Government in the 2006 elec- tions; having ‘independents’ in office presented political opportunities. Activists also noted that the institution had recently demonstrated its ecological concerns.With anti-mining mobiliza- tions occurring in many provinces, an open session of the Regional Government assembly held on 6 July 2007 agreed to send a communiqué to the Ministry of Energy and Mines ‘demanding that in the Cajamarca region no new mining concessions or expansion of existing mining projects be approved, without previously consulting the regional authorities and undertaking an ecological and economic study’. 31 Clearly, currents favourable to the objectives of the San Marcos mobilization were to be found inside the institution’s political membership. Addition- ally, Chanel Ruiz enjoyed an official status as the Regional Government’s elected representative for San Marcos province, enabling access to strategically placed officials and internal documen- tation, while the ‘agriculture yes, mining no’ argument echoed positively among his fellow councillors elected by other provinces in Cajamarca that faced similar difficulties vis-à-vis mining corporations. The social movement’s endeavour to gain a positive response from the Regional Govern- ment was also facilitated by the longstanding contacts that existed between certain older generation activists in San Marcos and functionaries occupying strategic decision-making positions within the institution. Neither was their cause hindered by a hardening of attitudes among many residents of Cajamarca against Minera Yanacocha, who operated Latin America’s largest gold mine on the city’s doorstep, where Regional Government bureaucrats resided. Attempts by this enterprise to excavate Cerro Quilish, a mountain viewed by the urban population as a major source of its domestic water supply, engendered a succession of massive protests in 2004. Apart from the undoubted serious environmental issues raised by mining Cerro Mogol, these factors help explain the Regional Government’s ruling in favour of the social movement, in opposition to the wishes of the García administration in Lima.


In a perceptive review of contemporary developments, Víctor Caballero observed a marked

increase in social conflict in Peru post-2007. Since attaining office in 2006, Caballero held that Alan García’s APRA government had not only demonstrated ‘a weak capacity to resolve them’ (2009, 15). The executive’s proclivity for ‘adopting hastily conceived policies without con-

and implementing them without consent’ stimu-

lated disputes; in particular, laws permitting the sale of community land, affecting water use and exercising a negative environmental impact, rendered conflict ‘inevitable’ (2009, 15, 18, 30). Moreover, official inertia when faced with popular discontent, Caballero argued, spread alien- ation and promoted ‘a climate of violence and a breakdown in governance’ at the local level (2009, 19).With reference to anti-mining protest movements, he added:

sidering their impact on the populatio n

The longer it takes to resolve a conflict, the mobilized population interprets government inaction as a snub or a sign of official disinterest, which leads to a collapse in dia-

and also promotes the emergence of radical leaders who call for aggressive

protests that enable them to gain ascendency among the populace, undermining the authority of local or regional government (2009, 21–22).


Movements engaged in violent acts in order to attract attention from state authorities and as a ploy to strengthen their negotiating position.This dynamic created an environment conducive

31 Letter from Jesús Coronel, President of the Regional Government, to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, 24 July 2007.

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to the rise of extremist ‘outsiders’ whose actions were not tempered via collective restraining mechanisms emanating from political parties or effective grassroots accountability. Such leaders, Caballero posited, operated with considerable autonomy, possessed tenuous links to the base organizations they claimed to represent and ‘conduct conflicts primarily with the aim of reinforcing their own position’ (2009, 22–3). 32 Protests consequently ‘spin out of control, without planning or coordination.Wholly spontaneous actions predominate, deepening a crisis of representation and legitimacy for political organizations’ (2009, 23–4). In effect, the com- portment of protest movement leaders mirrored that of the traditional Andean gamonal , or caudillo: authoritarian attitudes prevailed and self-interest motivated their behaviour. For its part, Caballero opined, the executive’s response proved ham-fisted. Repression comprised the most resorted to ‘solution’ when faced with popular protest, whose emergence was believed to originate from the manipulation of gullible and ignorant masses by ‘anti-system forces’ (2009, 53). 33 As will be discussed shortly, Caballero’s arguments may reflect protest movement–state dynamics in other localities across Peru, but his analysis does not conform to the course of the San Marcos–CondebambaValley mobilization, a crucial explanatory factor being the legacy and current practice of the rondas campesinas .The nightwatch patrols not only provided an extensive network throughout the countryside that could be summoned to get the movement started, they also supplied certain ‘repertoires’ or accepted patterns of conduct, such as an emphasis on re-education and re-insertion into village life, rather than imposing excessive punishments and expulsion. This tradition helped the movement to adopt a position that rejected the use of violence and emphasized employing weight of argument to win over smallholders in those villages who initially supported the mining project. Equally instructive is the high level of preparation, organization and discipline with which the protest movement functioned – actions did not occur in a ‘spontaneous’, directionless fashion, or ‘spin out of control’. To date the protest has been conducted to a satisfactory conclusion with no deaths or serious injury. The positive contribution of established ronda campesina praxis gives credence to Welch and Fernandes’ admonition to ‘look back at historical processes’ (2009, 4) when analyzing rural social movements. These features of the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization raise questions of effective rank-and-file control and the prevalence of patron–client relationships, seen by Cabal- lero as a feature of contemporary Peruvian protests. More broadly, ‘effective representation’ has been identified as a ‘problem’ common to agrarian movements across continents (Borras et al. 2008, 182–3).Without perceiving events through rose-tinted glasses, the ronda campesina tradi- tion bequeathed certain accepted – even assumed – modes of behaviour that have acted to counter the emergence of a layer of entrenched ‘movement entrepreneurs’ who orchestrate events in accordance with a private agenda, even if this ends in bloodshed. Decisions on what actions should be pursued, and how, are taken in assemblies where the whole village has the right to participate and the prevalent ethos prioritizes the reaching of consensual agreements. Although assemblies on their own are by no means a guarantee against domination by a self-perpetuating clique, when linked to other practices they have been able to prevent such a situation arising. Officeholders are subject to regular recall and have to account for their actions (or inaction). Nightwatch patrol leaders are rotated on a regular basis (usually every 2 years), enabling a degree of scrutiny and popular recall which is unusual in Peru – and undermined

32 The pernicious influence of some protest movement leaders is also noted in De Echave et al. (2009, 184–5).

33 This was President García’s interpretation of the Bagua protest, allusion being made to external interference from Bolivia and Venezuela.

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Company attempts to suborn activists. Revolving committee membership in turn signifies that the composition of delegations representing the village before second-tier organs at the district or provincial level regularly alters. It also counters tendencies for grassroots organizations to fall under kulak domination, which has been identified as an important issue confronting contem- porary Latin American agrarian movements (Borras et al. 2008, 194–5). Transparency, allied to an ‘organic’ interplay between leaders and led, helped sustain the movement’s legitimacy and with it grassroots participation. Key characteristics of the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization therefore stand in contrast to the protest mounted against Minera Majaz’s Río Blanco project, located in the neighbouring department of Piura, which conforms more closely to Caballero’s portrayal. Popular discontent being fuelled by similar livelihood concerns, this conflict has on occasions spun ‘out of control’, violent confrontations between villagers, company employees and the police producing several deaths, many injuries and significant numbers of detentions. 34 Although rondas campesinas occupy a central role in both movements, important differences in the nature of leader–grassroots relations, the influence of external political interests and resultant socio-political practice help explain the dissimilarities. In Piura, the nightwatch patrols became internally factionalized along ideological and party lines, a development reinforced by the strong links that arose with urban ‘outsiders’, notably schoolteachers affiliated to Patria Roja, whose cadres seek to expand the Maoist party’s social base while simultaneously undermining opposing currents of both left and right (De Echave et al. 2009, 56, 215–18, 242;Vera 2004, 91–3). These rivalries generated a more overtly aggressive stance against communities and individuals holding pro-mining positions, resulting in the apportionment of physical punish- ments beyond normal ronda campesina practice (including severe beatings and kidnappings). ‘Historical process’ (Welch and Fernandes 2009, 4), specifically contrasting experiences during the civil conflict, have influenced the adoption of divergent stances with regard to levels of acceptable violence, the emphasis placed on persuasion employed by the two movements, as well as the role of ‘outsiders’.Whereas Andean districts of Piura were only marginally affected by the insurgency, the CondebambaValley and its environs witnessed considerable turmoil, with country people being killed by guerrilla detachments and security forces (Taylor 2006). Living through difficult years during the 1980s and early 1990s not only heightened awareness about the negative consequences of resorting to excessive violence. Being targeted for forced recruit- ment into the ranks of the PCP-SL or the Civil Defence Committees created by the army as part of its counter-insurgency strategy sensitized the denizens of San Marcos and the Conde- bamba Valley to the dangers of their organizations becoming controlled by external political forces or the state. As a result, although urban activists have backed the movement, their influence in decision-making has been restricted; unlike the Majaz protest, non-peasant actors such as schoolteachers, although present, have not occupied leadership positions.

34 In 2001, the mining enterprise Minera Majaz, Peruvian subsidiary of the British firm Monterrico Metals, acquired concessions for the project ‘Río Blanco’ to exploit copper and molybdenum deposits on land belonging to the peasant communities of Segunda y Cajas (Huancabamba province) and Yanta (Ayabaca province). Monter- rico was later purchased by Xiamen Zijin, a Chinese consortium (April 2007). During a march on the mining camp in April 2004, one campesino was killed after being hit with a tear gas canister. Protesters claim that following a mass demonstration in August 2005, 29 community members were kidnapped for three days, handcuffed, beaten and tortured by the police in collusion with Forza, a private security firm hired by the company. One detainee bled to death after being shot. Over a hundred participants were processed at court as a result of the protests, with charges including ‘terrorism’ and drug trafficking. Photographs of the victims’ injuries were later released to the press ( La República, 13, 14 and 15 January 2009). Additional details on the Majaz protest are forthcoming in Peru Support Group (2007) and De Echave et al. (2009, 45–72).

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If the social movement proved able to retain legitimacy through its inclusive organizational structure, what is the significance of protests like that in the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley for the overall health of the Peruvian polity? An important contemporary study of ‘real existing democracy’ in Latin America highlighted the need to address issues of poverty and exclusion, the prevalence of ‘low intensity citizenship’ and stressed the desirability to advance from a situation of ‘elected democracy’ to a ‘citizens’ democracy’ (UNDP 2005).The recommendation was that this should be achieved by expanding socio-economic and political rights, with a vehicle for attaining these objectives being the promotion of civil society grassroots organiza- tions that could enhance popular participation and help overcome public apathy towards formal political processes and institutions. Suffice to say, President García’s hostile response to mobilization, epitomized by his ‘dog in a manger’ rhetoric, has contributed to the creation of a Habermasian ‘legitimation crisis’, whereby the interests of the political class in fuelling capital accumulation clash with demands by an important sector of the rural population for sustainable livelihoods allied to an extension of social and political rights. Since 2000, considerable numbers of Peruvians have been lifted out of poverty through a decade of sustained economic growth, yet three years into his term in office, García’s popularity had plummeted, the approval rating standing at 21 per cent in July 2009. Public disapproval of Congress and politicians also remains consistently high (Krishnan 2009). A significant percentage of electors distrust and reject traditional political parties and their leaders. Part of the explanation for this bifurcation between economic growth and satisfaction with the political system lies in the administra- tion’s negative attitude towards popular mobilization, alienation being especially prevalent in Andean departments, where most ‘resource wars’ happen to occur. 35 While Caballero cor- rectly warns about a crisis in governability and anti-mining protests have undoubtedly con- tributed to undermining ‘the authority of local or regional government’ (2009, 22), such an outcome does not unfold everywhere. Although criticism directed at the San Marcos munici- pality and Cajamarca’s Regional Government abounds (largely over operational inefficiencies in delivering services and development aid to rural areas), the standing of these institutions did not suffer as a consequence of the protest movement. Instead, the support they provided at key moments in the struggle was appreciated. ‘Legitimization crises’ may not affect all state agencies in equal measure. What might the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization tell us about the changing nature of the Peruvian state, an important player in anti-mining struggles? 36 The Peruvian state has usually been viewed as one of the most centralized in Latin America, a situation that reached its zenith during the Fujimori regime (1990–2000). Even so, events surrounding this protest suggest that a dispersion of power has been underway since Fujimori’s demise.This can be observed at two levels: the bureaucratic sphere involving the civil service, and secondly, the more overtly ‘political’ institutions within the overall state structure whose membership is determined by popular vote. Regarding the latter, in November 2002 the first ballot for regional governments took place, creating a new layer of elected representatives. As elsewhere in Latin America, decentralization policies aimed to bring government closer to the populace, in the process hopefully ‘deepening’ democracy. An examination of the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley protest indicates that while Alan García and APRA might exercise suzerainty in Lima – over the executive, Congress and upper echelons of the civil service – the formation of regional

35 The impact of anti-mining mobilization on voting patterns in the 2006 elections is discussed in Taylor (2008).

36 Kay laments the lack of consideration of the state in much recent work on Latin American social movements that adopt a ‘new rurality’ approach (2008, 934).

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governments has fragmented and tangled decision-making processes. Despite the central government’s wish that the Cerro Mogol project go ahead, it was eventually blocked through a ruling made by Cajamarca’s regional government. Locally elected politicians, such as Chanel Ruiz, possessing other concerns and subject to different pressures, played an important part in determining this outcome – both on the street and in the assembly chamber. Such a role clearly stands in contradistinction to the claim that: ‘Although present, regional governments do not figure among the most important players in mining conflicts’ (De Echave et al. 2009, 257). A related indication of decentring power structures concerns the bureaucracy.To an ordinary citizen or group of citizens engaged in protest, the state machine no longer appears such a monolithic or daunting entity as it did in the 1990s. This is significant, as it creates an opportunity for social movements to take advantage of contradictions and navigate between different layers and institutions inside the state apparatus. During the latter years of the fujimorato , the Ombudsman’s Office emerged as the only nation-wide institution enjoying a measure of autonomy from the all-powerful Fujimori–Montesinos clique, an independence that continues today. During the San Marcos–Condebamba Valley mobilization, the Ombudsman’s Office in Cajamarca provided welcome support: free legal advice, including intervention with the police and judicial authorities to modify repressive behaviour. Activists were also able to lobby and receive a favourable hearing from officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, to help counterweight the position of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, while backing from the environment unit within the Regional Government proved decisive in putting an end to drilling. It is also worth noting that the recently established (in May 2008) Ministry of the Environment played no important role in determining the outcome of this protest. Once this department consolidates an institutional identity and operational culture, the prospect arises that it will emerge as another potential source of bureaucratic influence open to grassroots organ- izations. Recent developments relating to the Peruvian state consequently suggest a more complex maze of competing power centres, whose interests might not coincide.This opens up new opportunities for rural social movements to manoeuvre in the gaps between jurisdictions – providing they possess the political abilità to take advantage of them.


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