Journalist Julio Vasquez describes his torture at a press conference in Lima by January 2009
Photo by Reuters
Photo by Reuters
To commit these crimes, Monterrico Metals had the support of a former British ambassador and a private security company in Peru, acting as a paramilitary group. Also Monterrico Metal have the strong support of the Peruvian government authorities, during the administrations of presidents Alejandro Toledo and currently with Alan Garcia.
The assassination, torture and sexual abuses of Peruvian citizens were committed in 2005 by a squadron of special agents of the Peruvian police (DINOES) and private security agents of the private company Forza Peru, under the request of the Monterrico Metals Plc management run by Andrew Bristow.
The armed forces attacked with guns and tear gas bombs unarmed Indigenous farmers and civilians who were arrested, tortured and killed after protesting the mining project Minera Majaz SA, subsidiary of Monterrico Metals –now known as Rio Blanco Copper SA- located in northern Peru next to the border with Ecuador. Local farmer Melanio Garcia died as a result of these abuses.
These crimes remained ignored and denied by the Peruvian government. Presidents Toledo and Garcia, the Peruvian Judiciary remained silent and most Peruvian media were paid to discredit the Indigenous protesters as “terrorists” sponsored by Hugo Chavez and even Al Qaeda.
Until early this year when photos taken by the torturers were exposed. Peruvian journalist Julio Cesar Vasquez –one of the victims of torture- along with human rights organizations held on a press conference in the capital, Lima by January 6, 2009 and showed these shocking photography shared by an anonymous source. These photos -very graphic images- are being used as evidence by attorney Richard Meeran of Leigh Day law offices in London:
A month after the press conference, Julio Cesar Vasquez and other witnesses received threatening phone calls:
"Since when is your job to help terrorists? We are going to make sure you rot in jail if you do not withdraw the accusations, if you don’t do it then you will arrive at the jail in pieces."Monterrico Metals Plc owned Minera Majaz SA when the abuses occurred. Later on this mining project was renamed as Rio Blanco Copper SA and was sold in 2007 to the Chinese corporation Xiamen Zijin Tongguan -owned in part by the Chinese government. Most of the Majaz personnel have stayed in their posts except those who favored a dialogue with local communities, those were fired.
Then former British ambassador to Peru Richard Ralph, left his post to take the leadership of Monterrico Metals Plc. but he got caught by the British justice. This disgusting story is described by British blogger Ten Percent who wrote by January this year:
In 2006 Richard Ralph stepped down as our ambassador to Peru and took up the Chairmanship of… Monterrico Metals he then went on to oversee the sale to a Chinese corporation a sale which he fraudulency used to make insider trading deals to profit himself, we know this because he was caught:The corrupted influence of Richard Ralph as the U.K. ambassador to Peru and his close tires with Alberto Fujimori benefited his friend Filip Boyen in another business: Boyen is Vice President of Operations for Orient Express Hotels, the British company that bought the only train service from Cusco to Machu Picchu, which is now called Peru Rail. This is a company known for its discrimination practices against non-white passangers, especially the same Indigenous peoples that built the sacred citadel.
Richard Ralph, the former executive chairman of Aim-listed mining company, Monterrico Metals, was fined £117,691.41 by the Financial Services Authority, and his friend, the Belgian businessman Filip Boyen, received a £81,982.95 penalty for dealing in Monterrico’s shares on the basis of inside information.
Peru's government support to Monterrico Metals
After the 2005 abuses in Rio Blanco, the Peruvian Prosecutor in charge ignored the claims of the people of Ayabaca and Huancabamba provicens, he eventually filed the case but later on was incarcerated in charges of corruption. President Alejandro Toledo left power in 2006 stating that his government was clean of any bloodshed cases, and that peace was finally reaching all Peruvians. Toledo wasn’t worried as the fate of Rio Blanco mining was assured.
As a candidate, Alan Garcia promised the people of Ayabaca that he would defend them from mining companies in the region, but he had lied again. By 2007 when Alan Garcia was already in power, the Chinese corporation Xiamen Zijin Tongguan bought Minera Majaz SA, and more government provisions were taken to assure the project could continue.
Indigenous peoples organized and this time they held a general referendum by September 2007. The presence of Minera Majaz in Rio Blanco was rejected in the three affected municipalities of Ayabaca, Carmen de la Frontera and Pacaypampa. Armed groups paid by Majaz tried to scare voters and even election observers, while the government and local media tried to present anti-mining activists as terrorists.
By March 2008, local authorities and advocates were sued by the government as terrorists, including community organizers, Indigenous leaders and members of non-profit organizations Javier Jahncke (Fedepaz) and Julia Cuadros (Cooperacción). The Prosecutors eventually filed the case until December 2008, when the case was reopened. In the same month, president Alan Garcia and his minister of Defense, Antero Flores-Araoz authorized the Majaz operations in the border region with the Supreme Decree 024-2008-DE, overlooking the national Constitution.
By January 2009 the contriverial photos were presented to the press by members of Fedepaz and the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos. The first reaction of Rio Blanco Copper SA was to deny the charges saying that its facilities were burned down by farmers, and then rejected their responsibility saying they bought the company in 2007 -even though the same staff of Monterrico Metals Plc stayed in their jobs. Then minister of Justice of Peru, Rosario Fernandez, supported Rio Blanco Copper SA position openly.
The current minister of Environment of Peru, Antonio Brack, hasn't denounced the pollution project of Rio Blanco but he has admitted receiving thousand of dollars from Minera Majaz to produce his TV program “La Buena Tierra” --which talks about mining and environment. Brack said in his program that Majaz didn’t represent a threat to the environment of the region. Brack has also received funding from other mining corporations including Barrick Gold Corporation, which has been accused of environmentally practices by environmental groups in several countries.
Monterrico Metals interests in Peru
Monterrico Metals is a relatively small corporation based in London, and it seems that it was created only to operate in Peru: its website states that the company headquarters are based in Hong Kong, and its main operations are in Peru. The company explores copper, silver and gold reserves and then attracts investors to extract them.
Monterrico Metals has not left Peru. The British company still owes the following mining projects:
Mamañina (copper) property lies on the east side of the Cordillera Blanca, at elevations of between 3,900 and 4,650m, approximately 580 km north of Lima near Huaraz. Monterrico Metals has acquired a 100% interestMonterrico Metals website praises the neoliberal regulations passed by former dictator Alberto Fujimori which attracted foreign investors to the Andean nation:
Carisla (gold) is located in the Department of Junin, Province of Huancayo, close to the village of Bethania in the Western Cordillera of southern Peru at elevations between 4,500 and 4,900m. The project is 100% owned by Monterrico.
Conaviri (gold) project area is located in the Puno region of southern Peru. Monterrico has a 100% interest in the project.
Antaymarca (silver) is located in southern Peru in the central part of the Western Cordillera and only 20 km from the Pumanuta property. The project can be accessed from Arequipa via Caylloma through the Arcata Mine road and then by cross country traverse. Monterrico has a 100% interest in the project.
In 1991, the mining law was simplified and now provides an attractive framework for development of minerals projects. There are few limitations on holding mineral concessions in Peru. Concessions can be held 100% by national or foreign companies indefinitely provided that an annual fee of US$3.00 per hectare per year is paid to the government as a land tax. The same concession title is valid for exploration and for mining, hence there is no complicated 'conversion' procedure. Peru's clear and simple mining law and excellent geological potential has helped the country to attract one of the largest budgets for minerals exploration and development in the world.Also Monterrico Metals Plc says that Rio Blanco has reserves of copper and molybdenum, in an isolated area and “the target date for first production is 2011.”
Rio Blanco is a porphyry copper deposit which is situated at the northern end of the Peruvian copper-gold belt. The deposit was discovered in 1994. Monterrico acquired an option on the property in 2001 and, after a successful drilling programme, negotiated the acquisition of 100% of the project in 2003. The deposit lies in the lower Andes (2,200-2,800 masl) close to the border with Ecuador. The site is uninhabited and there is no conflict with agriculture.
Illegal damaging mining
The Rio Blanco project is located in the highlands of the Andes mountains known as the cloudy forests, the only water sources for the lower valleys where hundreds of thousands of people live, raising livestock and growing agricultural goods with the water provided by local rivers. If this project is successful several rivers will be polluted and other mining companies will want to enter the region, including US-based Newmont, the biggest mining corporation in the world.
Rio Blanco doesn’t have the consent of the local communities of mostly Indigenous and Mestizo farmers, who are supported by human rights activists and Catholic priests. The project located in the border with Ecuador, which according to the Constitution of Peru -passed by Fujimori- foreigner investors are forbidden to own properties within 50 kilometers from any international border. However, president Alan Garcia signed a bill by the end of 2008 authorizing the mining project through the Ministry of Defense.
The extraction of copper planned in Rio Blanco includes environmental damaging techniques:
According to a report of Monterrico Metals, Minera Majaz intends to develop the conventional open pit technique in Rio Blanco, known worldwide as the worst pollution mining method. The mine will process ore crushing and grinding through the flotation method. The flotation is the use of chemical agents that have the ability to separate the particles from mining from an aqueous medium, forming bubbles that hold a concentrate. This concentrate is 36 percent copper. This is subjected to a melting process with high temperatures and after conversion and a refining processes, the copper must have 99.9 percent purity. […]Locals are still organizing to defend their lands and the survival of their ways of living, as they have being doing it for the last seven years. This is a summary of the activity of Monterrico Metals Plc, thanks to information shared by Wilfredo Ardito-Vega, a Peruvian human rights activist, and other sources.
Production of copper by open pit is very polluting. In early stages the extraction, the refining and chemical process, produce acidic waters, toxic tailing, trace elements and toxic metals that pollute the environment. The quality of air and human health are in danger from harmful dust particles. All mining activities generate large amounts of disposable materials or residues, damaging oils, affecting human and animal health. In the process of concentrates smelting, gases are released like sulfur dioxide and toxic metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium. […] Rio Blanco would transport copper concentrates molybdenum by a piping system or trucks to Paita, a seaport in the Pacific, for exportation.
Monterrico Metals Plc started its operations in northern Peru by late 2002 with its subsidiary Empresa Minera Majaz in the Indigenous communities of Segundo y Cajas, and Yanta, without the consent of the local population. The project is located in the provinces of Ayavaca and Huancabamba, region of Piura in the border with Ecuador.
During 2003 and 2004, the affected communities organized themselves to protest the mining project with the support of the local Catholic authorities. The government of Alejandro Toledo not only ignored them but lied offering a dialogue that never occurred. A civilian rally to Majaz organized by April 2004 ended with the killing of farmer Reemberto Herrera by the Peruvian police. To hide this crime, Minera Majaz denounced the protesters and priests as terrorists, but the case in the Judiciary was later withdrawn.
By November of 2004, a group of thugs hired by Majaz destroyed the facilities of the community radio station “La Poderosa”, owned by journalist Federico Ibanez. A month later, the same journalist and farmer organizer Josefa Adrianzen were tortured by the same paramilitary group, and both were detained by the Peruvian police for two months without charges.
For three years, a manipulated sector of the Peruvian media –including newspapers and TV stations- accused the farmers and priests who opposed Majaz as “terrorists”, linking them to the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Afghanistan.
Torturers: DINOES and Forza Peru
In Peru there is only one Police force: the Policia Nacional de Peru which has special forces created during the internal war with guerrillas in the 1980 and 1990 decades, which receive military training used today to repress popular protests. Most of the Peruvian police force members are Indigenous and Afro descendants, who sadly attack their own peoples.
The DINOES is the National Direction of Special Operations (Dirección Nacional de Operaciones Especiales), a militarized squadron of commandos-like trained policemen who gained reputation for their extreme methods to fight the guerrillas Shining Path and MRTA in the 1990 decade, which unfortunately allowed human rights violations.
In recent years the (DINOES) has been responsible for the killing, torture and beatings of innocent civilians, all over Peru. Most recently the DINOES men participated in the Bagua massacre in the Amazon region of Peru, where 50 to 250 Indigenous peoples were killed after protesting against mining, oil and lodging projects in their lands. Some sources say that the DINOES forces that attacked the Indigenous peoples in Bagua have been trained and financed partly by the United States government.
Peruvian police attacking an Indigenous man in Bagua. Photo by Thomas Quirynen and Marijke Deleu
Forza Peru SA is a private security corporation created in 1991, it provides services to private mining, oil, energy, communications, transportation, banking, construction, education companies and institutions -including the British embassy in Lima.
Forza Peru SA was partially bought in 2007 by the U.S. corporation Securitas and its agents are working as paramilitary groups in some cases for private mining corporations in Peru including Newmont, Majaz (Rio Blanco) and others.
Forza Peru has ties with the Peruvian military and government especially through vice president Luis Giampietri, who is also responsible of the killings of civilians in a Peruvian prison in 1986.
Most of investors and staff of Forza Peru are current or former members of the Peruvian Navy. This includes its founder and partial owner Ricardo Vega Llona, whose brother Juan Carlos Vega Llona is a Peruvian Navy captain involved in the killings of of civilians in the prison of El Fronton in 1986, the same crime now vice president Luis Giampietri. [read description and video of the crime in Spanish]
Also Forza Peru SA has also strong links with Business Track, “a private security firm, was engaged in spying on non-governmental organizations, environmental activists, social movements and opposition groups in Peru”. The work of Business Track included also the creation of media campaigns against anti-mining advocates, including the Catholic priest and potential presidential candidate Marco Arana, considered by Time magazine as one of the Heroes of the Environment 2009.
The owner of Business Track is Manuel Ponce, a retired Peruvian Navy captain who said during an interview with IPS:
"[Peru’s vice president Luis] Giampietri and I are friends; in fact I am friends with everyone, including (Peruvian) President (Alan) Garcia. I have provided all of them with the information they needed. If I learned something that would interest them, I passed it on. I gave them information, for free. Everyone has consulted me, even President Garcia," said Ponce in an interview from his prison cell for the Lima newspaper La Republica, published Feb. 8Manuel Ponce has been prosecuted for human rights violations committed when he worked at the Directorate of Naval Intelligence during the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, from 1990 to 2000.
What really happened in Rio Blanco
By the end of July 2005 –a year before presidential elections- a general protest and march ended with 7 farmers killed by the Peruvian police, dozens arrested and tortured by the police and private paramilitary forces hired by Majaz, under the management of British citizen Andrew Bristow.
Locals in Ayabaca and Huancabamba were told to walk over to Rio Blanco for an open dialogue with Minera Majaz, but they encountered violence instead:
Seven local farmers were killed when police attempted to block a protest march to the site of a copper mine under exploration by a British firm in the northwestern Peruvian region of Piura, according to local residents, authorities and a Catholic bishop.Inca Kola News posted a complete report with details provided by witnesses and victims:
The protesters from the Andean highland communities of Yanta, Pujan, Segundo and Cajas in the region of Piura, located 1,000 km from Lima, were killed in clashes with the police on Monday and Tuesday, said Bishop Daniel Turley, who is based in Chulucanas near the mine where demonstrators began to converge last week.
Carlos Martinez, mayor of the town of San Ignacio in the neighboring region of Cajamarca, also said seven people were killed. In addition, 40 people were injured, six or eight remain missing, and 32 were arrested, the bishop said Wednesday.
Since 2003 the mining company Majaz, today named Rio Blanco, operated in an irregular manner in the territory of the rural communities Segunda y Cajas and Yanta, in the northern frontier of Peru. The presence of the mining company is irregular as it did not have the consent of the two thirds majority of communal assembly as required by the law 26505, as noted by the People's Defense ombudsman (report 001-2006/ASPMA-MA). For two years the communities affected tried to use channels of dialogue with the State to demand the respect of their territorial rights, without any success.By March 2006, a community forum organized to discuss the impact of mining on water resources was interrupted by a group of thugs hired by Majaz, and panelists and attendees were attacked. Farmer and attendee Vicente Alcorta was violently beaten until he lost consciousness.
At the end of July 2005 the communities began a peaceful march towards the mining camp where, according to an offer from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, they were to meet with a high level multisector commission. The communities have noted on many occasions that it was a very difficult march, because it implied walking for several days through dense vegetation in extreme climatic conditions.
On arriving at the mining camp on August 1st 2005, the group was not received by the anticipated commission for dialogue, but instead a large police contingent that brutally repressed them, throwing tear gas canisters from helicopters and firing live rounds at the people, even when they were fleeing.
Under these circumstances 29 people, including two women and the journalist Julio Vazquez Calle, were apprehended and taken inside the mining camp. They were held there for three days and were submitted to various forms of psychological and physical torture. As well as being savagely beaten, in those three days they were kept blindfolded by bags sprinkled with tear-inducing powder and with their eyes bandaged. They were also deprived of warm clothing despite the low temperatures.
According to the testimonies of the group, from time to time a toxic powder was put on their faces under the bags and bandages that made them vomit and did not let them breathe properly. The women were subjected to diverse sexual assaults. Also, they were all inflicted with diverse verbal humiliations and threats.
In October 2007 the US institute 'Physicians For Human Rights' (recipients of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize) performed examinations on eight of the tortured people and confirmed the abuses they had suffered during their illegal detention.
What is next for the people of Peru
The international community must support the struggle of Peruvian civilians against their powerful enemies: private mining companies grouped within the powerful Sociedad Nacional de Mineria [National Society of Mining], the racist right-wing politicians who ignore the demands of the poorest and prefer to kill before helping them, and the own government led by president Alan Garcia who is known for his crimes of corruption and human rights abuses.
Carlos Martinez Solano, a community leader of the Frente por el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Frontera Norte del Peru [Front for Sustainable Development of the Northern Border of Peru], explains what he believes is the government strategy with its manipulated media:
"They want to create conditions that at some point will give them the authority to declare the state of emergency in the provinces of San Ignacio, Huancabamba and Ayabaca, so they can militarize the region and allow the mining activity, including Majaz and others concessions they are approving in these provinces"That is what is happening right now in the VRAE valleys in central Andes of Peru.
Meanwhile, Mario Tabra-Guerrero, a survivor of the torture attacks of Majaz and now a leader of the community organization Frente de Defensa de Ayabaca [Defense Front of Ayabaca] has wrote this:
We the communities have no choice but to intensify our resistance against the arrogance of the Chinese, European or U.S. transnationals; at the end they only want to fulfill their selfish interest of unjust enrichment at the expense of the natural resources found in the lands of our Indigenous, Native farmer peoples.
As long as the government of Peru is led by corrupted politicians who care only about their pockets, rahter than the rights and future of Peruvian citizens or the protection of the environment, nothing will change and the lives of millions of innocent people will continue in danger.
The international community must remind the Peruvian authorities and president Alan Garcia of their responsibility and accountability to comply with international legislation on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, corporation responsibility and Indigenous rights over the resources found in their lands.
Laguna NegraLaguna Negra is a film that explores the core values of a farmer Indigenous community in Huancabamba (Peru), the way the fabric of this society has been threatened by large scale mining and the destructive: