On the morning of Sept. 7, as workers arrived by bus at the giant Yanacocha mine in Peru's northern region of Cajamarca, agents of the National Police Criminal Investigation Directorate (DIRINCRI) arrived and arrested employee Jesús Elías Salcedo Becerra, 38, as suspected intellectual author of the Nov. 1, 2006 slaying of peasant ecologist Esmundo Becerra Cotrina, gunned down in a hail of 17 bullets while grazing his livestock at Yanacanchilla community, La Encañada district, Cajamarca province. National Police spokesman William Vásquez called the arrest a "preliminary detention," saying that an investigation is underway in cooperation with local offices of the Fiscalía, Peru's public prosecutor. Relatives of Becerra Cotrina arrived as Salcedo was being taken away, and fiercely beat him before being restrained by police and Yanacocha security.
In an interview with Dow Jones last week, Richard O'Brien, CEO of Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp. acknowledged that the conditions do not exist to move ahead with the $5 billion Conga gold and copper project in Cajamarca, Peru. O'Brien said there must be a "consistent environment that we would need for the successful conduct of both mining and all those things that go with mining, whether that is transporting people or equipment. Right now we don't see that environment in Conga. It will take a significant change to make that happen." (Fox Business News, Aug. 17) This week, a new 48-hour paro (civil strike) has been declared to oppose the Conga project in Cajamarca region, much of which remains under a state of emergency. To kick off the strike Aug. 22, hundreds of campesinos marched in the province of Bambamarca, in defiance of a ban on public protests. The marchers were mostly ronderos (members of the self-defense patrol) the outlying village of El Tambo, which is within the impact zone of the proposed mine. The campesinos held a gathering at Laguna Namococha, one of the highland lakes that would be degraded by the project. (La Republica, Aug. 22)
In a turn-around in the conflict over the proposed Conga gold mine in Cajamarca, Peru, right-wing fujimorista congressman from the region, Joaquín Ramírez Gamarra, has come out publicly for shelving the project in the interests of social peace. "The suspension of the Conga mining project is the best path to follow," he said. "It will permit us to not only calm the situation, but also to open spaces for dialogue." Breaking ranks with President Ollanta Humala, he added: "The state of emergency should be lifted; the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendín and Bambamarca cannot remain under a state of exception. This would say much about the proposal for an opening on the part of the Executive." (El Mercurio, Cajamarca, Aug. 14; RPP, Aug. 7)
The president of Peru's Cajamarca region, Gregorio Santos, said Aug. 9 that he sees no purpose in continuing talks with two Roman Catholic priests trying to mediate a peaceful solution to the dispute over the proposed Conga gold-mining project. "The facilitators have already completed their tasks," Santos said. "The facilitators aren't going to make any decisions. The executive branch already knows the position of the people of Cajamarca." The statement came the day after facilitators, Trujillo Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos and dissident priest Gaston Garatea (suspended from the ministry by the Archdiocese of Lima for his populist positions), met with Prime Minister Juan Jiménez and other members of President Ollanta Humala's cabinet. The facilitators issued a statement calling on the central government to lift the state of emergency that was imposed on much of Cajamarca region in early July following an escalations of protests against the Conga project. (Dow Jones, Aug. 9; Andina, Aug. 8; CNA, July 24)