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July/August 2011
Vol. 36, No. 4

Peru: Indigenous struggle for justice

On May 2, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns brought Trinidad Carlos Serna, a human rights lawyer from Peru, to the United Nations so that she could present the case of the indigenous people of Peru's Puno region and their great struggle against the devastation to their lands being caused by mining corporations with the collusion of the Peruvian government. While the information was well received by those who heard her compelling story, the Peruvian ambassador to the UN remained completely unresponsive.

On June 24, five people were killed and dozens injured when those protesting the mining concessions broke fences and ran into the airstrip of Juliaca's international airport. Following is a public statement from Catholic leaders in the diocese:

Faced with the tragic events of June 24, as priests, nuns, committed laity and various institutions within the Diocese of Puno, we consider it our evangelical duty to speak out publicly. First, our condolences to the families of the peasant brothers who have been killed and we express our solidarity to the more than 30 persons who were wounded by bullets and buckshot, some of whom were maimed for life.

We find that the inhabitants of the Ramis river basin for years have been peacefully lobbying the central government for effective action against the semiformal and informal mining that is polluting their fields, their animals and their own lives. In making this claim they are also asking for the health of us all, because the pollution reaches Lake Titicaca and affects the food and water we consume in the region.

The government of Alan Garcia, however, did not take seriously the requests, took a pro-mining stance, and did not meet the covenants agreed upon while they let time pass until conflict broke out, as happened in Moquegua, Bagua and Islay. And when in the midst of the strike, a mob tried and partly took the city's Manco Capac airport, the DINOES police and those of the USE from Lima, backed by the soldiers stationed in Puno, acted not as deterrents, but responded by bullying and shooting at close range. There, people like Antonio Campos Huanca, who were not protesting, were killed and others were injured.

These deaths and serious assaults on life can not go unpunished. The central government, which is slow in finding solutions but rapid at repression, has to respond for these acts before the court. The police and the army must also respond before the court. The strikers and their leaders must assume their responsibility of their actions and critically examine how they acted on this tragic day, June 24, as well as separate themselves from aligning with these infiltrators and provocateurs who were present and claim as well as demand that after the case has been investigated, they should be penalized.

In a situation as challenging as this one, we reaffirm our faith in the God of life, who requires that we protect it every moment, because the life of the poor "is precious in his sight" (Psalm 72: 14). We recognize the just cause of the azangarino people in their struggle for the decontamination of the Ramis River, which is a struggle for life for all. As the problems are still latent and pain persists, we call on the central government, the regional government, the local governments, the mining sector involved in the problem and the organized local peasants to overcome attitudes of indifference or aggression in order to find the best solution to the conflict.

Pachamama, a gift of God, is home to all and is designed so that all may have life in abundance (John 10: 10). Join forces to make this wish come true.

Juliaca, 27 de junio del 2011

Signed by: P. Luis Jesús López, párroco de Cristo Rey - Juliaca;P. Jorge Huanca, párroco de Santa Catalina – Juliaca;  P. Luis Zambrano, párroco de Pueblo de Dios - Juliaca; P. Marcos Degen, párroco de Arapa y Chupa; P. Manuel Vassallo, párroco de San Felipe - Caracoto; Misioneras Dominicas de Puno y Arapa; Hermanas de la Cruz de Chavanod; Comunidades Laicas de Santiago de Pupuja (COMLAS); CONFER Puno - Juli; Hna. Vilda Zamalloa - Juliaca;  Fe y Derechos Humanos (FEDERH); Instituto Surandino de Investigación y Acción Solidaria (ISAIAS); Centro de Espiritualidades EMAUS; Casa Don Bosco - Juliaca;  Centro de Desarrollo Humano (CEDEH) Centro de Promoción Integral para el Desarrollo Rural (CEPIDER); (CEADMUN); Mesa de Concertación de Lucha contra la pobreza – San Román

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