Another outrageous crime against human rights committed by mining corporations and the government of Peru.
Several photographs provided to the media from an undisclosed source, show images of Peruvian police and a security private company members, torturing 29 local farmers and community leaders who were protesting against a mining project in their land.
Mario Tabra Guerrero, one of the survivors of the crime and President of Frente de Defensa del Medio Ambiente, la Vida y el Agro (a non-profit in defense of the environment, life and agriculture) in the Ayabaca town, has sent me several emails with crucial information regarding this crime that occurred over three years ago.
It happened in the end of July 2005 (during Alejandro Toledo's presidency) when locals protested against the Majaz mining site today named Rio Blanco, which is owned by Monterrico Metals (a UK and China consortium).
Majaz is located 880 Km. north from Lima, next to the border with Ecuador. It produces copper and if developed, it will be among the 20 top producers of that mineral in the world, destroying the region environment in the process. This mine would damage the environment permanently, especially because it's located in the mountains where local rivers are born.
Snapshots of a crime
The images shown here -caution advised- were taken during a 3 day long torture against 29 Peruvian farmers (including 2 women) mostly Indigenous farmers and community leaders, who were protesting against the mentioned mining venture. One farmer died: Melanio García Gonzáles was shot in the back.
The torturers were members of Peru's National Police (PNP) through its DINOES division, which is the National Direction of Special Operations against terrorism. Also there were involved members of the private security company Forza, which has committed crimes in the Yanacocha gold mine in Peru.
Forza is owned by former Peru's Navy officers and its biggest client is the powerful SNMPE, the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy. The current Peruvian vice president is Luis Giampietri, a retired Navy Admiral who is also involved in torture and assassination of civilians during Garcia's first term in 1985-1990.
Injustice and silence
Ever since the crime happened, the survivors have been trying to find justice. But the Peruvian government and police, along with local judiciary authorities, have denied or ignored the events.
Now that the evidence is clear, Peruvian media has mostly remained silent.
Only one newspaper in Lima -La Primera- and CNR radio station, have posted related news. The Regional de Piura paper has also mentioned the findings. The oldest newspaper in Peru, El Comercio -a strong ally of mining companies and the current government- has doubt the sources of the photographs and said that "social peace" is at risk.
Peruvian blogs have widely ignored it, with few exceptions including the blog of the NGO Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, a prestigious human rights advocate, which is covering the crisis intensively.
This demonstrates that most media in Peru are manipulated by the government.
- Update: more newspapers and blogs have reacted about this sad news.
A survivor tells
Also, the National Confederation of Peoples Affected by Mining in Peru - Conacami has posted a revealing testimony from Mario Tabra, one of the survivors:
- "We were taken to a bathroom where they tortured us both physically and emotionally, during three days we were tied to ropes on our wrists. They shouted to us: You are terrorists! Son of bitches! Fucking ignorant Indians! You will die!. They would take 4-hours turns to hit and kick us, spraying tear powder on us.
When the detainees cried out to God, they would tell us: The Police is God! At nights, they didn't let us sleep, pain was unbearable, suffocating, people were groaning and crying..."
One of the saddest things is that most Peruvian police and security agents are Native men themselves, torturing their own people in the behalf of their very oppressors.
More background information
This is an article posted by the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos DHPeru's blog:
- Photographs confirm torture of peasants who protested against Majaz Mining
Since 2003 the Majaz Mining Company, today called Rio Blanco, operates irregularly in the land of peasant communities of Segunda y Cajas and Yanta, in Peru’s northern border. The presence of the mining company is irregular for not having the consent of two thirds of the community assembly’s, according to Law 26505, in order with the People’s Ombudsman (Report 001-2006/ASPMAMA). During two years the affected communities tried to use the dialogue channels with the State to demand the respect of their territorial rights, without any result.
By the end of July 2005 the community members initiated a pacific march towards the mining camp, where according to the Ministry of Energy and Mining, there was going to be a high level multi sectoral commission. The community members have pointed out more than once that this was a sacrifice march, because it implied walking during several days through thick vegetation and in extreme climate conditions.
When they arrived to the mining camp on August 1st 2005, the community members were not received by the expected commission, but by a strong police contingent who repressed them brutally, firing tear gas from helicopters, firing against people, even when they ran away.
In these circumstances, 29 people, including two women and the journalist Julio Vázquez Calle, were intercepted and taken inside the mining camp. These they remained kidnapped during three days, besides being subjects of diverse forms of physical and psychological torture. As well as being wildly beaten, during those days, they were kept hooded with sacks sprayed with tear powder and blindfolded, with no warm clothes in spite of the low temperatures.
According to the community member’s testimony every now and then they were sprayed with a toxic powder in their faces, under the sacks and blindfolds, which made them vomit and did not let them breathe. The women were subject of diverse kinds of humiliation of sexual character. And all were threatened and humiliated verbally in many ways.
In October 2007 the North American Institution Physicians for Human Rights, (institution awarded with the 1997 Peace Nobel) carried out a specialized report to eight of the persons who had been tortured, corroborating the abuse suffered during their illegal detention.
The responsibility for these actions belongs to the diverse police officers from the National Police which took part directly in these criminal actions and against the security personnel of Majaz Mining Company which directly intervened in the facts. The tortures took place inside the mining camp.
In July 2008 the National Coordinator for Human Rights (CNDDHH) and the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace (Fedepaz) presented a denunciation for these facts before the Fifth Criminal Provincial Attorney’s Office in Piura.
The denunciation considered the charges of kidnapping, torture and sexual crimes. Among the torture techniques included in the denunciation were aggression with tear gas, exposure to toxic products, subject to beatings, asphyxia, remain tied up and in forced positions during long periods of time, prolonged exposure to cold climate, deprivation to food and water and death threats among others.
Additionally the attorney that was present during the detention of the aggravated persons, Mr. Felix Toledo Leiva, has been denounced for criminal complaint for omission of the exercise of criminal action, due to his complete knowledge of the abuse committed, and far from promoting a criminal action against the perpetrators, he accused the victims for their participation in the pacific march.
Also the doctor who examined the persons tortured has been enunciated for the crime of issuing a false medical certification; he did not leave proof of the torture signs presented.
The denunciation originated the investigation 214-2008 of the Fifth Criminal Provincial Attorney’s Office in Piura. To this day, the Public Ministry has been taking the statements to the aggravated persons.
Photographs of Horror
A few days ago, the National Coordinator of Human Rights had access to a set of photographs that, anonymously delivered, corroborates the alleged torture that in time was enunciated by the community members.
The photographs show diverse moments of the facts occurred in Majaz mining camp. In them you can see the things which were confiscated by the police from the demonstrators: clothes, food and kitchen utensils. By the way, there is not one single firearm, which credits the pacific character of the peasant march.
The images reveal, beyond any doubt, different signs of mistreatment in the community members that participated in the sacrifice march. Bloody bruised faces and with injures produced by the repressive action. Peasants with bare feet and unclothed torso, corned against each other, tied and blindfolded in the mining company’s slaughterhouse.
The images also show the peasants remained hooded in sacks which contained tear powder, which besides producing them severe burns did not allow them to breathe properly (according to the testimonies of the victims they where kept in these conditions during hours so they could not identify their captors nor their seclusion place). In these circumstances they were transferred to different places in the mining company facilities where they remained kidnapped.
The National Coordinator of Human Rights strongly condemns the action of torture and the acts of humiliation produced to the Ayabaca and Huancabamba peasants, which appear unquestionably accredited in the photographs we publish today. We call on the authorities to sanction with the full weight of the law those responsible of these abominable facts.
The death of Melanio
The sacrifice march against Majaz mining company also had the tragic result of the death of the peasant Melanio García.
The photographs published here exclusively, register Melanio Garcia, after the gun shot he received, still alive, on August 1st in broad daylight: in the photograph you can see the bandage covering the gun shot wound and the peasants expression of pain.
The circumstances of the death of this community member must be seriously investigated.
Above all, because from the post mortem examinations Melanio Garcia died… on August 2nd, of a hemorrhage caused by the gun shot wound. And because, besides, the photographs taken on August 2nd register the corpse of Melanio Garcia, who on that date was under police custody, in another scenario and in a different position (in the middle of the bush in dorsal cubit).
Recently, the Alan Garcia administration has passed the Supreme Decree 024-2008, which allows mining activity in the Ayabaca and Huancabamba communities (northern border with Ecuador) in behalf of Xiamen Zijin Tongguan mining corporation, from China -which happens to be the majority owner of Majaz-Rio Blanco.
Of course, this has done without any consultation with the locals. Meanwhile, the Minister of Environmet, Antonio Brack has been accused of supporting the Majaz project back in 2006.
Protests against mining, oil and gas projects are being held all over Peru, but the Garcia government doesn't intend to listen to what Peruvians have to say. Instead, they are taking another approach.
Over 300 Peruvian citizens have been prosecuted by the Peruvian government, accused of terrorism, violence, damage to property, rebellion among other charges. They are community leaders and environmentalists in the Piura (Ayavaca, Huancabamba) and Cajamarca (Yanachocha) regions.