Social conflicts in Peru, often a result of disputes between natural resource extraction and communities, resulted in 191 deaths during former President Alan Garcia’s administration, according to daily La Republica.
The head of the prime minister’s office for social conflict management, Victor Caballero, said that 153 of the deaths were civilians and 38 were military and police.
Caballero said that this was due to the lack of proper social conflict prevention. “Our policy will be continuous dialog to solve the potential conflicts and not provoke popular uprisings,” Caballero said.
Caballero said the deaths during conflicts steadily increased during Garcia’s administration. In 2006, there were 17 deaths, 28 in 2007, 35 in 2008 and 66 in 2009.
When Garcia took office in 2006, there were less than 100 social conflicts in Peru. That number sky-rocketed to above 250 conflicts, before reducing slightly before the end of his term. In July, Garcia’s last month in office, there were 214 social conflicts, according to the Defensoria del Pueblo.
The biggest and most deadly conflict during Garcia’s administration came in June 2009 between police and indigenous protesters in the north-east jungle of Bagua. That clash led to the death of 24 police and more than 10 protesters. Meanwhile, in June this year, six people died at Juliaca airport in protests against mining investment in the Puno region.
“Garcia’s characteristic was repression before dialogue,” said Francisco Soberon, the executive director of Peru’s human rights association Aprodeh.
The Defensoria del Pueblo, also, repeatedly criticized Garcia’s government for procrastinating on negotiations and decisions. In the Bagua incident, Congress delayed debating claims by Amazon communities for more than 18 months, which led to the highway blockage strikes and subsequent police repression.
Deaths during a conflict resolution “Can no longer be accepted,” said the minister of the Environment, Ricardo Giesecke. “We should put a tombstone on this as well, turn the page. There cannot be any more deaths due to conflicts.”
President Ollanta Humala has pledged to resolve the conflicts and this month the new Congress approved a bill that is intended to improve consultation with indigenous communities before the development of mining and energy projects.
The approval of the bill enacts Peru’s recognition and signature of the International Labour Organization Convention 169.