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Cablegate: New Bagua Protests: The Dog That Didn't Bite

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SOCI ENRG EMIN PE
SUBJECT: New Bagua Protests: The Dog That Didn't Bite

REF: 10 LIMA 69; 09 LIMA 1010

1. (SBU) Summary. Planned February 22 protests organized by
indigenous organizations in the Amazon and elsewhere fizzled.
Protesters had an expansive list of objectives, from arresting
former GOP officials and opposing the Bagua investigative report
issued in December (ref A), to banning all mining concessions in
the Amazon and Andean regions. The Peruvian government responded
preventively, sending security forces in advance and suspending one
mining company's explorations in the area. The government appears
to have learned from past mistakes, and (according to insiders)
believes it must ensure order first, and only negotiate on that
basis. End summary.

2. (SBU) Planned February 22 protests organized by indigenous
organizations in the Amazon and elsewhere fizzled. According to
police estimates, up to 600 protesters gathered for a couple of
hours midday in Jaen (Cajamarca), with smaller numbers in
Yurimaguas (Loreto) and only about 100 in Bagua (in Amazonas, the
area of last year's violent clashes between indigenous protesters
and police - ref B). In Lima, demonstrations were likewise small,
low-key, and brief. Protest organizers in the Amazon attributed
the low turnout to a high profile police presence. A
non-participating indigenous group told the Embassy the week before
that most indigenous communities' support for the protests was
weak.

3. (SBU) Protesters, led by the indigenous organization AIDESEP
and supported by several left-leaning political groups,
self-defense committees ("ronderos"), the radical public teachers'
union SUTEP, the communist union CGTP, and others, had an expansive
and absolutist list of objectives. Topping the list was rejection
of the Bagua investigative report issued in December (ref A), which
protesters say was biased. The list also included such disparate
demands as the arrest of former prime minister Yehude Simon and
other GOP officials (whom the protesters deemed as "genocidal"),
the repeal of additional [unnamed] decrees, the removal of several
mining companies, and the banning of all mining and petroleum
concessions in the Amazon, Cordillera del Condor, and high Andean
regions.

4. (SBU) The Peruvian government responded preventively, sending
hundreds of security forces to Bagua, Tarapoto, Yurimaguas, and
Jaen in advance of the scheduled protests to ensure order. In an
unusual move, the GOP also ordered the Peruvian mining company
Afrodita to suspend its explorations in Cordillera del Condor, near
the Ecuadorian border, which had become a lightning rod for some
protesters. The government has received many complaints over the
years regarding this concession, we believe largely because some
groups were hoping that the concession territory would be included
in a later-created national park. Some groups also complained the
company had conducted insufficient consultations before starting
its explorations.

Comment

5. (SBU) The government appears to have learned from past
mistakes, when poor planning and execution led to disaster.
According to government insiders, the GOP must begin by ensuring
order and public security, and conduct subsequent negotiations on
that basis. Sending security forces in advance of the protests was
a conscious decision to prevent things from getting out of hand.
McKinley

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