photo of person from Peru Cerro de Pasco
Peru glossary


(PERU 33)






campesino leader


San Francisco de Asis, en Moracocha





This interview takes place in the campesino community of San Francisco de Asis, in Morococha. It is a community with a population which fluctuates between 300 and 400 campesinos, situated in the province of Yauli la Oroya, in the department of Junin which itself is in the central part of the country at an altitude of 3,900ó4,000 metres.

We are talking with Marino Abel Baldeon Reventeria, former leader of the campesino community of San Francisco de Pucara which is situated within the district of Morococha.

I am delighted to talk with you. Our campesino communities are nuclei which descend from the glorious Incas, a portion of land with a slice of history and yet we are still developing, however slowly. I think that us campesinos are conformists, we earn little, we are content; we earn nothing and we are still content. We earn well, sometimes we are also proud or haughty. I think it shouldnít be like this and in the passage of time, I belong to this zone of influence, the campesino community of San Francisco de Pucara. It was here that I handed over my youth, from the age of 18 until now for the want of liberating it. But even now we have not had the desired success and many of my descendants, my relations, many of my fellow villagers have died without seeing the desired success, because of the lack of social development of our people, perhaps because of a lack of adequate channelling of the issues in which they live.
Section 2
Don Marino, you were saying earlier that this community of Pucara was first settled in 1751. Do you know anything about this period, what could you tell about it?
Well, this community dates according to ancient documents, to ancestral times, it was founded in 1751. But, when all is said and done, as far as I am concerned, these documents have become history and I am interested in what is important now. That is how it is that a village which is so ancient, which was formed such a long time ago, can still have nothing. We lack infrastructure, in this village we donít even have a slaughterhouse for the livestock, we donít even have a tannery and yet we are producers of leather, wool. In order to industrialise our products, we need infrastructure and yet we lack the most basic means in our organisation, whether it be water, drainage or air conditioning. This is the truth of it.

Do you currently get any support from the government for your organisations, or from the municipalities or is there any mutual support between the different campesino communities?
Well yes. Mutual help between the surrounding campesino communities, no, but between individual comuneros (registered community members with rights and resposibilties), yes we sometimes support each other. For example, in 1979-80 when I was president of the Special Committee for Potable Water, I managed to secure a budget of 7,000 910 gold soles, they called it old in those times, during the time of Fernando Beluande Terry, from the Cooperation Popular Central of Trama which was in those times led by Juan Botetano Miravel and because of its money we now have potable water and yet weíre still without drainage and sometimes we manage to get very small grants from the state institutions. Foncodes ďpinta floresĒ (literally paints flowers, paints a perfect picture) for us but has never actually built anything and with other outfits itís just as difficult. Thatís the way it is, Iím afraid.
Section 3
And from the municipalities?
Well, from the municipalities from the district of Morococha, practically nothing. Perhaps theyíve fooled us with titbits, but itís nothing really to talk of. Most recently the municipality of Morococha, presided over by Mayor Amanda Vilchez Armas, has helped us out twice with our secondary mains supply to the tune of 2,000 new soles (Peruvian currency) and in 1994 it supported the primary mains with the sum of 1,500 new soles. And this is all that the district municipality has provided us with.
On the other hand, the provincial municipality of Yauli Oroya in 1990, the popular assembly was created following the recommendations of the town council and on 5 May the foundation was restructured as the popular assembly. They tell me that at that time the popular assembly existed in La Oroya when Luis Boluarte Necochea was mayor, but then a number of mayors who followed killed off the popular assembly. Then, in 1990 professor Teodoro CŠrdenas Casachagua came to power in the municipality and reorganised the popular assembly through the town councils, and our present day popular assembly follows in the same tradition. Then, on 18 March 1990, I presented the electrification needs of the village of San Francisco de Asis de Pucara. They accepted our petition and on 5 May the reorganisation of the popular assembly came about and I was nominated as secretary of acts and archives of the assembly and during my time in office I managed to secure a budget of 13 million dollars for the secondary mains which was provided by the provincial municipality of Yauli Oroya. With this support, we were able to lay the secondary mains supply in 1992 after a delay of 2 years, and only just now on 7 October 1994, the primary supply was finalised thanks to the support of Teodoro Cardenas Casachagua. I would say that because of his works, because of his prolific programmes, because of his development works which will benefit many Andean people, I think that for me Teodoro Cardenas Casachagua is a divine master with hands of gold. The present phase is not a metaphor but a consideration he deserves and he is a man who, now that he is mayor, comes delivering public works with open arms and a common effort for many villages and not just for the beautiful city of la Oroya. Thank you.

Thereís one issue that this community and many others like it cannot ignore and it relates to the existence of mining companies here and in the surrounding areas. Is your community, and others like it, affected by toxic gases or by mineral extraction? Have these companies helped in any way the community to develop, or rather, have they done any harm in environmental terms that you could tell us about, don Marino?
Iíd be delighted. Just in this zone of influence, in Morococha, five mining companies are in operation, aside from the huacchilleras (?), but these are beginning to disappear and the mining companies are also slowly leaving. For example, Centraminas has shut up shop, I think that a mine which houses some 500 workers, takes about 3 years to close down. Also, the Santa Rita mining company has also ceased operations, closed its doors, a company which had more than 2,000 workers and now the settlements in the Santa Rita zone are completely deserted, the ramshackle houses are a sorry sight, and in the same way; Centromin and Austria Duvaz are now beginning to start operations.
We have not benefited from their existence in any way, even though Morococha exists inside the communal patrimony of the Campesino Community of San Francisco Asis de Pucara. On the contrary, they have harmed us with their toxic gases, minerals, with their waste deposits which have destroyed our pastoral lands. The dust from their waste has caused major damage to the environment ó this is what I can tell you.
Section 4
In the summer when there are strong winds, they say that the dust even covers the roofs of the houses, is that so Don Marino?
Yes, thatís exactly how it is. In the summer, particularly in July, August and September, there are strong hurricane winds and the waste deposits, which are dumped in various parts or the settlements, rise up like the fog, fly around and settle on the rooftops, on the pastures and as a result cause damage to the environment but also to the animals.

Have you been able to analyse the harm caused to the animals as a result of the contaminated pastureland?
We havenít actually been able to detect the harm done to the animals except for the lack of grazing land brought about by the erosion of soil cover and as a result the livestock is very undernourished and its meat hardly reaches any price in the markets. Because itís so bad, people hardly bother trying to sell it any more. This is the damage caused by Centromin and Austria Duvaz who operate in the zone of Morococha.

Is the waste also dumped in any of the lakes around here? Have any of them been affected or contaminated?
Yes, the main one is the lake Huascacocha which is deteriorating because of the waste which the mining operations dump in it. Itís polluted with reagents and you cannot drink from it. The animals canít either.

Doesnít the community demand that the mining companies decontaminate the environment and the lakes?
Well, no. We did try a few years back. I remember when SINAMOS set up during the regime of Velasco Alvarado. Suddenly the campesino communities were living in the golden age, and on creating Sinamos, the government of Velasco Alvarado thought it could count on these agents of change [the campesino communities], thought perhaps about transforming the campesino communities into more dynamic agents of production and productivity. But the opposite happened. It was a total disaster.
The agents of SINAMOS (National System of Support and Social Mobilisation) had no experience of managing work in rural areas and as a result, the whole organisation almost disappeared completely. In my village they wanted to put conditions on one and then the other and not even a trace of the organisation, or any infrastructure remains today. They organised seminars, courses.... well, courses-cum-workshops, thinking that they could educate the campesino, but I donít think they managed to educate him, I think they corrupted him and nothing came out of it whatsoever. Because in the seminars they held they would calculate what they earned by raising cattle, what they earned by keeping sheep, theyíd say that this one produced wool and this one meat, they produce leather, milk, manure, bones etc. Then theyíd do the same with the sheep, theyíd say that the sheep produces meat, wool, hooves, bones and so on.
Rather than this it would have been better had they set up an infrastructure at the provincial level to process these products and then there would have been some technological transfer. But instead, they tried to fool the campesino and with the agrarian reform, nothing has changed for the poor campesino. Even now, all campesino communities still suffer extreme poverty. This much I can tell you.
Section 5
As a community you are part of the Agrarian League. The League has some agreements with Centromin Peru concerning the effects of the fumes and waste deposits. In your capacity as leader of the Agrarian League, could you tell us something about this?
With pleasure. Just at the time when SINAMOS was coming into existence, because of the concerns of the president of the Agrarian League, the Agrarian League came into being in the campesino community of Santa Rosa de Saco, on 16 July 1973. I was one of the founders of the League of which I am also vice president. Later on, the League was manipulated by SINAMOS, to the extent that we would now say ď??ď When I had the opportunity, and this year weíll commemorate it again in March, we began the necessary process, spending our own money along the way, to demand compensation from the Cerro de Pasco Corporation and other mining outfits for the damage caused by the fumes and the waste deposits which have affected our livestock and our agriculture, since in the lower regions of the provinces of Yauli they grow crops although they donít in the higher regions, ie in Morococha.
So, on 5 May, after a series of interviews with those responsible at Centromin, we succeeded in making a claim against the damage the mines caused to the campesino communities since 1985. Resolution 0090 corresponded, not to all campesino communities but to some of them in the province of Yauli, and regretfully my community was not considered in the ministerial resolution 00190 of 1984. Then Centromin appealed against the same resolution of 1985 until 1994, almost 10 years later and we have only just got people into the spirit of making claims. Some campesino communities are charging staggering amounts for the damage caused by fumes and deposits; former La Oroya charged 25,820 soles, new soles and so on, but the community of Pachachaca charged 2,800 soles which is migaja (peanuts, nothing) for this community given that they are even more affected than former La Oroya. The communities of Chacapalpa and Huari charged a little more, but I cannot give the figures because I donít have the documents at hand. And so, my community of Pucara, weíve got nothing, because the ministerial resolution was based on a meeting in La Oroya on 9 October 1984 when Luis Boluarte Necochea was mayor and I think that my campesino community of Pucara and those responsible in turn would keep telling us that everything would be fine with the deposits and fumes and things, but in the end, we didnít get a cent. Now we have come together formally and we have presented a report to the central government of Alberto Fujimori demanding that they pay us for the smoke and fumes from 1985 until the present day.
Section 6
Do you mean that all the communities are now part of the Agrarian League?
Yes, it is made up of the 16 sisterly communities of the glorious district of Yauli.

What youíre saying then - is it not - that they took no account of the degree of damage caused to the communities? They made the calculation and that was that.
Yes, thatís the way it was, it wasnít clearly defined and Iím going to.. .you remind me , we have had discussions on repeated occasions with Centromin Peru, some of them lasting for a week, with various employees of Centromin. Despite the fact that Centromin was represented by Jose Carrascal Leon, that also present was a chemical engineer, a biological engineer, an accountant and a legal adviser, the Agrarian League also and its advisers - an accountant and a legal adviser, because otherwise it would have been ďcat for hareĒ - [Translator: I think heís saying that they remained unthreatened by this deliberate show of strength] . Thanks to our dynamism, our efforts and our intrepidness, we managed to ensure that the campesino communities received their dues for the fumes and deposits. We are now wanting to pursue the same process to ensure we continue to be recompensed.

Is it right that you currently have a serious problem with land rights, that a ministerial resolution has recently been modified, and that they continue to take away your land? Could you tell us something about this, don Marino?
Yes, I donít remember the date of the resolution, bull it was some time in February 1994. It was a supreme (?) resolution endorsed by the president of the Council of Ministers in which Centromin, given its plans to be privatised, agreed to sell off its property in the mining reservation zones. The bill was endorsed by the president of the Council of Ministers and transferred in March to the Ministry of Agriculture in the Region Andres Avelino Caceres. In turn, Ms Sonia Naupari, employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, also passed the resolution, without taking account of the fact that the aforementioned zone is occupied by the campesino people of the community of San Francisco Asis de Pucara, without a visit, nor a by your leave, without any previous consultation.
And so we sent a report to the Congress, we sent a report to the president of the Council of Ministers, we sent a report to the central government, and also to the Regional Andres Avelino Caceres... to the Minister of Agriculture. We are still awaiting for the answers, and as a result the community of Pucara finds itself financially ruined and unable to meet the costs of the proceedings.
But I think that as a result of their proposal to take over 5,300 hectares away from us, the comuneros of San Francicso Asis de Pucara have been forced to come together to take a legal stand and the community of Pucara is now officially recognised and registered in the public land registry, I think. I believe that the modification of the plan catastral is inadmissible, because in my view no law has the...
Section 7
Given that you have been affected by the land issue, or rather that the Centromin case is yet to be resolved, what is the general view within the community and equally within the agrarian league?
Well, in my capacity as comunero of San Francisco de Asis de Pucara, given the legal background to the case, and given that, as I have just mentioned, no law has the power to demand back payment (?) I think it ought to remain here, except if Central government itself was to appear, because Centromin is exploiting this extension underground and we are being exploited on the surface. As far as the Agrarian League is concerned, we have to bear in mind that almost all the campesino communities in the province of Yauli Oroya are affected by Centromin Peru. For example in Yauli, San Antonio de Yauli, Centromin is also trying to take over a large area of land. Itís the same in Suytucancha, in Huayhay, in Huaypacha and also in Carhuacayan where Centromin has mining reservation zones. But, I shall say it again, I believe that Centromin is a multi-million dollar operation, a very prestigious company, and it ought to leave these lands, these small parcels of land to the campesino communities because us campesinos work on these lands, while under the ground, with no obstacle whatsoever, Centromin continues to extract the rich minerals from the ground. This is the point I am wanting to make.

Well, don Marino, thank you for your time and for agreeing to this interview, if there is anything else you want to add, the floor is yours.
Thank you. Well, every day I ponder on the fact that here we are living in the twentieth century, with all its scientific advances, its communications, cybernetics, its conquests in space etc yet paradoxically it is also the century of hunger and misery. Because of a lack of financial technical support, the campesinos have never been able to prosper. Every government in turn talks about support to the campesino, support to the campesino, but for the bureaucrats and civil servants of the government, this support is soon left behind. To quote an example, the food and provisions which the national Food Aid Programme has to give out, do not reach, continue not to reach the people who really need it - for those who do, there is so much red-tape involved. It was a similar story with the social compensation fund, which the Pucara community also failed to benefit from. Because of the lack of technical direction and the lack of financial support, weíve still got our animals grazing in the traditional (and empirical?) way, which isnít very profitable and means that we will ... continue to remain poor.
Adding to what I have said during this interview, I should like to shed some more light on the characteristics of our mining settlements which operate and have operated in Morococha. In 1989 I was nominated president of the Special Pro-Clean Drinking Water Committee in this village, and as such I made an approach to the Popular Cooperation of the second regime of Belaunde Terry. I managed to secure building materials, cement, corrugated iron etc to build a reservoir of potable water. The success that I had was due to the dynamics of my action. I published an article in the daily paper which said: ďSince the erection of a modern reservoir in the campesino village of San Francisco de Pucara, all the mining communities of Morococha will be provided with potable water.Ē This is incredible in itself. Morococha is right in the heart of the Andes, and Iím not lying when I say that water is very scarce. The ones who suffer most in Morococha are the ones who live in Morococha Nueva, because there is Morococha Nueva and Morococha Vieja, with their buckets here and buckets there going in search of missing water. Its tragic that water is so scarce given the number of lakes which exist round here: Huacracocha, Churuca. I think their water levels have fallen because of the mines of Centromin.
And so I knocked on the doors of the Santa Rita mining company, and met with the supervisor there, Carlos Villanueva Ortiz. He presented me with 100 planks of 2 x 8 x 10 feet which I used for building the reservoir. I also called on the mining Society of Yauli, then represented by Elias Cueva Olivera, who lent me his mixing machine to transport the sand to the worksite. In the same way, I knocked on the doors of the Centromin as mining company to ask whether they would lend me their mixing machine which they did. I asked one of the huacchillera mining companies Sierra Nevada de Morococha for a donation of 48,000 new soles to which they obliged.
I didnít approach Austria Duvas or Centromin Peru. I imagine that they would also have helped me because I suppose all the mining outfits are made up of professional people and I donít think professional people are necessarily bad people, Itís more likely that they are charitable people and when one knocks on the doors of good people, they hold out their hand. Iím not going to say that they are totally bad, they donít want to do any good. Thatís the way it is. So, in my position as leader of the Agrarian League, we knocked on the doors of the management at Centromin, demanding repayment for the damage cause by the fumes and waste deposits which was endorsed in the ministerial resolution number 00190 of 1984 and they came through with the repayment for the fumes and waste deposits for the peasant communities. In these ways, sirs, Iíve further elaborated my statements to you. Thank you very much.