Environmental protection

When the French Left is accused of plotting against Peru

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Who is looking to destabilize the Peruvian economy? For several weeks, the Peruvian media have been accusing French and European politicians and NGOs of supporting the opposition to the Conga mining project, in the Cajamarca region, in the North of Peru. It is there that, for three years, residents have been mobilizing against what would be the largest open-air mine in Latin America, operated by Newmon mining (read our report in French). There have been many attempts to discredit the activists, who have been accused of "terrorism", "arms and drug trafficking", and now of being agents of European powers trying to "slow the economic development model of the country, which is based on industrial extraction."

Among the main targets of such accusations, as brought by the paper El Comercio, are Alain Lipietz, a member of the EELV (European Ecologists - the Greens), Catherine Grèze, a French MEP for the Greens, Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the French Communist Party, Martine Billard, co-president of the Left Party (Parti de gauche), Patrick Le Hyaric, a communist MEP and editor of the paper L’Humanité, and Laurence Cohen, a Communist senator. Indeed, all of these people do support, to different degrees, the opposition to the project. In October 2013, Laurence Cohen welcomed in France Edy Benavides, one of the leaders of the struggle against Conga. A photo of the senator shaking hands with the Peruvian protester appeared in El Comercio, as a way to illustrate and denounce the connections between French politicians and Peruvian activists. A way, also, to conjure up the «red menace», in a country that was embroiled in a civil war from 1980 to 2000 between the Peruvian army and the Shining Path, an armed group with Communist tendencies. The conflict resulted in over 70,000 deaths, half of which are blamed on the Shining Path.

"A Foreign Plot"

Fingers have also been pointed at French NGOs: France Libertés - Danielle Mitterand Foundation and France Amérique latine (FAL). Along with the politicians, they are accused of financing European trips for the activists, coordinating protests, lobbying within the UN, or even collaborating with the "ultra-radical" Inter-institutional Platform of Celendin, an association of those opposed to the Conga project. The foreign actors in this "conspiracy" against the gigantic mine are presented in an infographic published by the Peruvian paper Semana Economica. Each politician gets a little description and a photo identifying them (the magazine obviously made an error in choosing Pierre Laurent’s picture; he has lost some hair and gotten a few wrinkles since the picture was taken!). For Miguel Santillana, the expert behind this campaign, these "international players are feeding the conflict, in one way or another". A conflict which, according to him, should not exist.

"We are asking the Peruvian government to disavow this defamatory campaign against organizations and politicians who are recognized for their defense of democratic rights in France, in Europe, in Peru, and all over the world", responds a collective of associations, including those targeted in the papers’ campaigns. In the Cajamarca region, at the foot of the lakes which would be destroyed in order to get at the gold reserves, activists continue their protests. They are continuing to prevent the development of a mining project which would throw into chaos the lives of thousands of peasants.

Simon Gouin

This article was originally published in French

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