June 5 marked five years since the bloodshed in the Peruvian city of Bagua, situated in the Amazon. The Peruvian government negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the United States that came into effect in February of 2009. It gave mining corporations special rights to access the Amazon for oil exploration and subsequent exploitation. There were numerous protests that year from multiple indigenous groups, like the awajun and wampis. In June, President Alan Garcia declared a state of emergency and sent in the Peruvian National Police to stop the protests. At least 33 people were killed, including members of the police and indigenous groups. Although some politicians resigned their posts, like the then Prime Minister Yehude Simon, no politicians have been brought to justice as being the intellectual perpetrators of the crime. Many Peruvians now view both the police and the awajun and wampis peoples as victims of a game in which the players care much more for the benefit of transnationals and their own pockets than the lives of “second class citizens,” as President Garcia defined them when asked what he thought of the happenings on June 5, 2009.
Starting at around 5:00 at the Plaza San Martin, a wide array of different organizations began a a demonstration in commemoration of the day of the Earth and the fifth anniversary of the bloodshed at Bagua.
Many different leaders spoke to the crowd of about 100 people at the Plaza San Martin that evening. Between every speaker the crowd cried out in unison: “Conga no va! Conga no va! Toromocho tampoco! Toromocho tampoco!” The first is a protest against a gold and copper mining project led by Newmont Corporation in Cajamarca, the second a copper and molybdenum mining project led by Minera Chinalco Peru. Newmont is U.S.-owned, while Chinalco’s roots go all the way to China.
The ground was covered with published and unpublished photographs of the bloodshed.
Noe Yenque, a leader of alternative press, was one of the first to speak. He emphasized the interconnectedness of the different facets of predatory neoliberalism by making the link between extractivism, water contamination, food modification, and the need for education: “What is happening in Toromocho, right here a few kilometers from Lima, is that the Chinalco corporation, a capitalist….social fascist let’s call it, because the British Empire, the North American Empire, the transnational corporations now have their new public bathroom, their new laundering center that is China. In India they’ve already imposed GMOs, have killed hundreds, thousands, millions of farmers, are killing in any part of the world. They impose in Peru a list of more than 3,000 GMOs that we’re already eating in our chicken diets that we eat daily through corn, in pasta, and bread that they sell us with GMO wheat from the United States, produced by one or two corporations in the world. Genetically modified soy, genetically modified mangoes that they’re now imposing. The agro-exporters now want to sell us everything that is GMO brothers, but we, the conscious people, the communities, have to at least, if we cannot make a wave of protests, we can begin to educate the people.”
Two representatives of the group Fuerza Ecosocial remained on the ground, representing plant life. The flyer that they were handing out at the event reads: “The Time Has Come to Unite and Fight for Life. A new generation has been born that defends life in all of its expressions. Enough of animal, ecological, and human exploitation!”
They put a piece of paper on the ground for everyone to read: “Five years since the Baguazo: 2009-2014. We demand prison for those who ordered this execrable crime against amazon peoples. Declare the 5th of June National Day of the Amazon, in memory of the brothers who lost their life in defense of their lands and their identity…”
The speakers continued. Noe Yenque, of the Alternative Press, said that, “We denounce the system that exploits and destroys nature. It is the cause of all genocides. The Beast of the writers, Capitalism and of its governing rightist lackeys who serve the Transnationals. Prison for the guilty Alan Garcia, Mercedes Araoz, Yehude Simon.”
Fuerza Ecosocial presented a skit with a man in a golden crown representing Alan Garcia, corrupt politicians, capitalists, corrupt members of congress, and mining companies. The skit emphasized the political corruption and racism that permeates the Peruvian socio-political arena. An actor in the skit announced: “Conga si va! Toromocho ya va! We need more gold! Do you think you fucking cholos will stop me? And why the heck do you bring the police, if the police are with us damn it! Here we’ve bought them with a lot of money. Who doesn’t want money? Don’t want money? This can’t be! ucking cholos you don’t know how to think. You’re stupid! With Conga we’re going to bring you progress! We’re going to give you education, we’re going to give you health, we’re going to build houses for you damn it! And I don’t care about dirtying, contaminating water or land, or the air. Gold, gold is life damn it!”
A youth from Fuerza Ecosocial representing nature spoke out against the golden-crowned man: “You dirty businessman, go back to your country! Leave our country in peace, don’t cut trees, don’t pollute the water, please leave! They are life for us! Your dirty economic growth is a lie! You’re destroying more lakes and animals and rivers all the time. Stop please!”
There were vehement calls for the end of APRA, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, a political party that in its inception in the 1920s had a leftist ideology but which is now considered a party that favors neoliberal economics. Alan Garcia currently heads APRA.
Many causes and movements were present, from animal rights, to water pollution, and organic agriculture, showing support for the victims in Bagua and highlighting the interconnectedness of both oppressive systems and those that seek to unmask them.
Posted by Constanza Ontaneda – MA Candidate at CLACS