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.