Magdiel Carrion Pintado – President, Comunidades Afectados por la Mineria (CONACAMI) Communities Affected by Mining
October 31, 2012
Magdiel’s commitment to the people of Peru is inspiring. I experienced my time with him as a passionate call to action. His organization has had some incredible victories, but not without intense commitment and grave cost.
I first heard of CONACAMI as the organizational force behind the astounding people’s victory in Tambo Grande Peru. In 2003, the farming communities of Tambo Grande threw their lot in with this relatively young organization and lead an international campaign to stop a Canadian mining company from turning their farming valley into a gold mine. The company’s expansive wealth and Peru’s history of dismissing indigenous rights in favor of international investment stacked the odds against them. But through a persistent campaign that involved on the ground organizing, public relations, leadership training, and a legal strategy that lead to the supreme court, CONACAMI won a lasting victory that has kept families farming in Tambo Grande and has helped build a nationwide alliance that has self-organized leadership in 20 of Peru’s 25 regions.
I caught up with Magdiel Carrion Pintado in the CONACAMI national offices when we were in Lima. My timing couldn’t have been better. Magdiel was in the process of wrapping up his two-year term as President and was in a reflective mood. Before this clip opens up he explained to me how Andean communities have been self organized for many years to defend their resources and land from intrusions from the Peruvian Government, the Sendero Luminoso and other rebel/terrorist groups. Communities would band together in mutual support and provide for themselves what most of us take for granted as being provided by the state. He credits much of the strength of CONACAMI to this history of self-organization.
Over the last ten years CONACAMI has been involved in multiple struggles throughout the country – many of which Carrion Pintado references in this interview. What isn’t captured in the bit above is that they often take their issues to popular referendum and win with over 95% of the vote. Aside from Tambo Grande, the most common reference is to Cajamarca, a deadly ongoing conflict in northern Peru revolving around pollution from a proposed gold mine that would destroy four lakes and consequently the farming livelihood of indigenous communities in the area. Up to this point they have been successful in keeping the mine out.
Magdiel ended the interview with a pointed request. “If you are going to distribute this interview; with pleasure I would like that you share this interview. The businesses, or governments, or the people or business leaders that invest money in Peru [must hear:] Stop the killing of our people. This is one of the biggest defects of the businesses. If you don’t die by a bullet from your own Peruvian Police, you will die from contamination. And this is called murder. If you use cyanide in your business or in the water you wash metals with, you are contaminating your agriculture and the entire world. For this I say – Stop killing our people.