Sendero teaches miners who's boss

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Feb 5 11:40:18 MST 1996


"Miners and mining unions have also been the victims of Sendero's
central highlands offensive. Historically, miners have formed the core
of the Peruvian labour movement. Since its formation in the early
1930s. the Peruvian National Federation of Mining, Metallurgical and
Steel Workers (FNTMMSP) has represented Peru's many different
company and regional miners' unions. Of these, the unions from the
large central highland mining towns of Morococha, Casapalca, La
Oroya and Cerro de Pasco have played a particularly important role
against foreign-owned corporations and in supporting the peasant
movement for land.

In 1989, in the midst of Sendero's campaign, the FNTMMSP came
under fire from various quarters. Faced with the possibility of a
general strike in support of a new union contract, mine owners, APRA
government functionaries [APRA is the party of Alan Garcia. It is
basically nationalist in orientation and has drifted to the right in recent
years], and the right-wing press began accusing FNTMMSP leaders
and rank-and-file members of terrorism in the hope of provoking
military intervention in the mining camps which supported the strike.
After months of such attempts to discredit the union leadership, in
February 1989 the right-wing paramilitary Commando Rodrigo Franco
assassinated Saul Cantoral, the FNTMMSP General Secretary, and
Consuelo Garcia de la Cruz, a women's organizer in the mining
camps. Over the following four months, Sendero followed suit with the
murders of three prominent union leaders. Several other union
activists and organizers of miners' wives also received death threats.

At its 1989 congress, the FNTMMSP approved the creation of miners'
self-defense brigades and called a national strike for 14 August in
anticipation of the management's refusal to recognize the new union
contract. In preparation for the strike, miners from the central
highlands held a regional congress in Morococha in late July. Several
days before the event, Sendero destroyed machinery and installations
at the Morococha mines and threatened union leaders. At the congress,
which was also attended by representatives from peasant and women's
organizations, the delegates agreed to support the strike and to oppose
Sendero's efforts to provoke military intervention in the mining camps.

Amidst proliferating accusations of terrorism, the military intervened
during the miners' strike. In Morococha, Casapalca and La Oroya,
striking miners were arrested, and union offices were raided and
documents were seized and destroyed. While the miners successfully
carried on their strike and even won some of their original demands,
the PCP-SL had succeeded in creating an atmosphere in which all
union activity was increasingly difficult. Under siege from both
Sendero and the right-wing paramilitaries, the miners' unions have not
only lost some of their best leaders. Today they also confront a
situation in which Sendero and the military can act with virtual

(From "Peru -- Time of Fear", by Deborah Poole and Gerardo

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