Police contracts with mining companies disclosed
6 November 2016
The contracts between a number of the largest mining companies and their local police forces for the protection of their mines have been receiving public attention lately, especially following the death from a police bullet of a protester at Las Bambas mine on 14 October. It is thought that there are at least 20 such contracts with key mining companies nationwide.
The government has announced that it will “revise the norms” applicable in such agreements. Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio has declared that in the case of Las Bambas the police were acting without respect for the norms for the management of such protests.
At the same time, the Cuzco-based human rights organisation Derechos Humanos sin Fronteras (DHSF) has managed to view four such agreements as a result of a freedom of information action initiated two years ago. DHSF has made public the terms of four such agreements. They include agreements with three major companies with interests in and around Cuzco: Glencore (Antapaccay), Hudbay (Constancia) and MMG (Las Bambas).
The Director of DHSF, the lawyer Ruth Luque, describes these agreements as “legal but not legitimate”. They state that the police who work for the companies do so in their holiday time. But they also show that the company pays both the individual policemen and the police force for the presence of police detachments in the mining camps. The terms of the agreements also allow the use of force when there is an imminent risk to the life of mine personnel.
Luque argues that such terms make the police respond to the interests of the company, effectively turning the police into the companies' “guachiman” or watchman. “The police operate on behalf of the company, act under its protection, receive implements from it, and act in pursuit of its interests against those of the citizen”.
Luque goes on to argue that the fact that it took two years for DHSF to gain access to these documents shows that, in practice, such agreements are effectively secret and not in the least transparent. The measures needed now, she says, must go beyond simply the revision of 'norms'.