Peru: Setback in the implementation of the Prior Consultation law

Source: Latin America Press

Government refuses to publish database on indigenous peoples and excludes coastal and mountain communities, where mining activity is concentrated, from consultation processes.

The implementation of the Law of Prior Consultation of Indigenous Peoples over legislative or administrative measures that they are directly affected by — in effect for a little over a year — is facing huge setbacks in Peru. In late April, in the context of falling metals prices and slowing economic growth in China and Europe, the government temporarily waived prior consultation on 14 mining projects located on the coast and in the mountains and that are currently in exploratory phase.

Following President Ollanta Humala’s declaration — who said on Apr. 28 that the indigenous communities with consultation rights are those in the jungle and not on the coast or mountains —, government spokespersons added that a competitive economy cannot hinder investment. With the premise of reducing poverty, the head of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) Jorge Merino said that “[there is] a stock of mining investments of US$54 million” and that they should be developed as soon as possible, in order to continue funding the social programs promoted by the Executive.

The current government had taken important steps with the legislation and regulation of the consultation process, although the latter was questioned by the indigenous peoples for failing to take their contribution into account. In September 2011, Humala symbolically enacted the Law of the Right to Prior Consultation of Indigenous and Native Peoples in the northeastern city of Bagua, where, in June 2009, violent clashes between the police and civilians resulted in the deaths of 34 people. The riots broke out as a protest against the enactment of a series of legislative decrees issued by former president Alan García (2006-2011), which would have opened indigenous Amazon land to private investment without prior consultation.

“The enactment of the law in Bagua seemed to mark a new relationship with indigenous peoples, however, it [soon] began to give priority to the discourse that indigenous peoples and prior consultation are obstacles to investment,” Verónika Mendoza, congresswoman and president of the Congress’s taskforce for the monitoring of the implementation of the Prior Consultation Law, told Latinamerica Press.

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