Peru: The Hugo Blanco Galdos School for Environmental and Social Leaders

2 September 2016 - 4:45pm

The Hugo Blanco Galdos School for Environmental and Social Leaders: a space for community building through sharing, feeling and stimulating convergence between the anti-mining struggles of communities in (the northern provinces of) Peru.

Over the past two decades the mining industry in Peru has been growing at breakneck speed. The appointment of ex-World Bank and IMF economist Pedro Pablo Kuscinsky as the new president has seen a fast-tracking of environmental licenses and a renewed attack on those who stand opposed to the extractive projects  which continue to devastate environments, pollute waterways and force thousands of people from their lands. Struggling communities have faced intimidation, legal threats and violence from the military and from private security firms acting under mining company’s orders.

In this context, War on Want partner, the Plataforma Interinstitucional de Celendín (PIC) – a grassroots coalition of over 30 organisations from the northern regions of Peru – hosted the first session of the “Hugo Blanco Galdos School for Leaders”, which took place during the 5, 6 and 7 August in the province of Celendín in Cajamarca.  The school is named after 82-year-old farmer and leader of the 1962 Convenciones campesino movement, which headed a defining struggle for agrarian reform in the Peruvian highlands. He was imprisoned for 25 years but his legacy remains a symbol of hope for the rural populations of Peru. A current senator for Lima, Hugo Blanco himself was present at the meeting – calling for the need to build a new Peru, one with the ethics of community at its heart.

The School brings together different groups and individuals who have coalesced to defend the natural environment, their livelihoods and their land. The delegations present at the first meeting were made up of communities who are currently defending their territories in resistance to the huge open-cast gold Conga mining project - one of Peru’s defining mining conflicts which has received continued international attention - and the construction of a series of mega-dams designed to supply endless energy to the mine, at the expense of the region’s principal and sacred water source: the Marañon River.

More than a hundred participants from 31 different communities were present, coming from the provinces of San Marcos, Cajabamba, Bolivar, Cachapoyas and Luya. Participants were invited to explore the spirit of the mountains of Celendin, just as their ancestors did: sharing music, tradition, stories and art, in order to help form a common vision in connection to the land: alternatives to extractivism for a world free from extractivism.  

Milton Sanchez, coordinator of the PIC and passionate defender of the four mountain lakes under threat from the Conga project, described the school as, ”a space for mutual learning through the sharing of ideas and experiences to define the necessary steps to defend the environment from irreparable damage, while proposing practical alternatives to the notion that extractivism – the exploitation and plunder of natural resources at any cost, is the only way.”

The PIC, established in 2009, grew out of the coming together of diverse efforts to resist the Conga mine project, a proposed extension to the existing Yanacocha mine – already the biggest opencast gold mine in Latin America. However over time, communities have also come together to oppose the construction of hydroelectric projects on the Marañon river, such as Chadin 2 and Rio Grande 1 and 2, designed to provide the Conga mine with a continuous flow of energy.

A staggering 35% of Peruvian territory has been granted concessions for the development of extractive projects, couple this with a complex system of state subordination to multinational company’s interest, and it is no surprise that there are currently over 150 conflicts related to water and mining taking place in Peru. People have and will continue to defend their land and their water, whatever the cost. 

For more information visit the official PIC website: 


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