Garcia Backs Humala’s Approach to Conga Protests

Ex-President Alan Garcia, in one of his first interviews since leaving office in July, told Radio Programas this week that he backs the government’s efforts to advance the Minas Conga gold and copper project.

Garcia said that President Ollanta Humala’s cabinet chief, Oscar Valdes, was responsible and serious in seeking to restart a dialogue with the project’s opponents on Monday.

Valdes traveled with a team of ministers to Cajamarca where they met with Gregorio Santos, the regional president and one of the main opponents of Conga. The meeting, the first since a state of emergency was lifted last week, broke down when Santos refused to sign a deal outlining further negotiations.

“The government is right and you have to support it,” Garcia said. “A cabinet that holds talks has to have time frames, the negotiations cannot go on forever.”

Garcia added that the project is “of national interest, for the 30 million Peruvians and the future of our children, not just a group that wants to develop the mine.”

The conflict over Conga is one of  many disputes in Peru over the development of mining and energy projects.

However, the number of these disputes more than doubled during Garcia’s administration, which in many cases ignored the demands of regional communities and overrode objections to favor private investment projects.  There were several strikes and road blockades that ended in violent confrontations, of which Bagua is the most notorious —more than 18 months of putting off negotiations and legislation to protect prior consultation rights of indigenous communities ended in a clash that took the lives of 11 police and 10 protestors.

Many analysts blame Garcia’s administration for not properly addressing the conflicts and leaving the disputes for Humala, who took office on July 28 with promises to improve the consultation process and resolve issues.

Garcia rejected the claim that his administration left a time bomb in Cajamarca, saying that there have been social problems during all administrations.

Garcia, who called Humala’s new cabinet positive, said that he was pleased that the president has maintained his own administration’s economic policies since taking office.

Pro-Fujimori Pardon

In addition, Garcia said that he would favor a humanitarian pardon for ex-President Alberto Fujimori, currently serving a 25-year jail sentence for human rights crimes and corruption charges.

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