Forty. The number of dead civilians in social conflicts after three and a half years of Ollanta Humala’s government. It’s 2014 and this is the supposedly democratic republic of Peru, where more than 70% of social conflicts are linked to environmental and social problems caused by extractive industry. “Despite all efforts of civil society and some public authorities and functionaries, we are going backwards,” was the sad conclusion of Rocio Silva, the National Coordinator of Human Rights, at an official presentation of Peru’s Annual Report on Human Rights in July 2014 in Iquitos. The publication is the annual portrait of Peru’s human rights situation. Compiled by a number of civil society organizations, it points out the increasing number of fundamental rights violations in Peru.
She continued, “We are facing a reality that promotes impunity of police and military forces that kill civilians in action. National police forces can sign agreements with extractive companies to protect their installations and interests [these agreements are top secret]. With media concentrated in the hands of a few and no real liberty of the press, there has been no real coverage of indigenous rights or their institutions. Then there is our economic growth which, due to our weak democratic tradition, brought us initially high levels of corruption in local and regional governments [different regional presidents are actually persecuted and put in jail].”
The official promulgation of Peru’s National Plan of Human Rights by the President on 4th of July in Pisac wasn’t reason for celebration either. “First of all, the President delivered the Plan sitting next to Minister of Internal Affairs, Urresti, an old school military leader accused of crimes against humanity for which we, as a human rights watchdog, seek his resignation. So what does that indicate? The Plan also neglected to take into account the many contributions of almost two years of participatory processes with civil society.”
On top of that, despite huge national and international protests, only a few days later the Castilla package was published. Named after the Minister of Economics, these tributary and legal measures that weaken environmental standards to promote economic investment are another slap in the face to Peruvian civilians whose rights to live in a healthy environment are being violated to preserve transnational economic interest.
When governments decide to give priority to the protection of economic interest of their own elites and of transnational companies, rather than to the fundamental rights of their civilians, that creates a situation of deep mistrust that affects democracy itself. The social pact is hurt. The only solution I see is to empower civil society even more and have the democracy built up again bottom up.