Conga Va Vs. Conga No Va: A Case Study on the Pervasiveness of Poverty in Cajamarca, Peru

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Giselle VELASQUEZ, Independent Researcher, USA, World Bank Group, USA
Habermas reflected on the importance of proper communication, where social debate and openness to include diverse viewpoints, would be beneficial in a democratic society. An interesting contrasting debate was seen during the intense demonstrations in favor and oppose to Conga, a mining project in Cajamarca, Peru. The motives defended by those in favor of the project, the government and transnational corporations, were the development and economic progress of this impoverished region. The main argument defended by those opposing the project, NGOs and region leaders, was the protection of the environment. The symbols of these two sides depicted gold in one side, and water on the other; both, sustaining contrasting moral choices of economic progress vs protecting the environment.

As massive demonstrations made headlines accusing police brutality, the level of organization of these resistance groups suggested a well-planned scheme that led to investigate possible associations with organizations seeking to destabilize the government. Balancing the controversy, known cases of environmental pollution pointing to the actions of Newmont Corporation attracted attention from international NGOs and local sympathizers.

This study analyzes both arguments identifying their motives, connecting these to the broader historical and economic context. This content analysis examines online news reports from Radio Programas del Peru (2011 to 2012); accounts of international reactions; the Environmental Impact Assessment of Conga; and the historical impact of mining in the region.

The importance of this study is the understanding of the relevant imbalance among the actors that take part in the triangulation of this case. The great majority of people in Cajamarca are historically isolated. In this region, blessed by abundant minerals and natural resources, the levels of illiteracy are high. Regardless of the arguments presented on both sides, a third fundamentally chronic and persistent issue comes afloat: the pervasiveness of poverty inherited since colonial times.