In the face of nearly ever-present police violence, people around the world are questioning the extent and purpose of police presence. In Cajamarca, Peru, their presence has a clear rationale: thanks to a national regulation passed in 2009, large-scale mining companies can contract both state and private police forces to protect their extractive activities and eliminate opposition. Thus, foreign and domestic corporations preserve a status quo in which legitimate powers (state institutions) have granted them exclusive access to a gigantic piece of land and, of course, the right to destroy it. Unfortunately, the exercise of that right is reportedly dependent upon the violation of others: namely, the human rights of communities in the operation’s area of impact.
Minera Yanacocha, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation, began operating in the region of Cajamarca in 1993. To protect their mine site, Minera Yanacocha officially contracted the Forza Security Company, founded two years earlier by retired officers of the Peruvian Armed Forces. In August of 2006, Minera Yanacocha sent between 75 and 200 Forza and Peruvian National Police officers to remove a roadblock in Cajamarca, formed in opposition to their mine’s Carachugo expansion. As armed men clashed with peaceful protestors, Isidro Llanos Cavaría was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer–either an employee of Forza or directly hired by Yanacocha.
In 2007, Switzerland’s Securitas, one of the world’s largest multinational security corporations, purchased Forza (though personnel working on the Cajamarca project did not appear to change). According to their website, Securitas provides mining security solutions in the form of:
- Sistema de video remoto: Or, Remote Recording Systems. According to activists in Cajamarca, Securitas guards record and monitor campesino community members (including Máxima Chaupe, known worldwide for defending her land against the corporation) by maintaining security cameras pointed directly towards their private property.
- Sistema de control de acceso: Or, Access Control Systems. Minera Yanacocha set up checkpoints, manned by police and Securitas guards, throughout the mine’s area of impact. Cajamarca residents report that Securitas and police restrict local community members’ freedom of movement and have detained those who actively oppose their activities.
- Vigilancia Especializada: Or, Specialized Surveillance. A widely documented scandal revealed that Forza contracted a surveillance team to spy on local activists who oppose the Cajamarca mines; agents followed, recorded, wiretapped and threatened their targets.
Time and again, police resort to violence to “maintain order,” an order which allows them to take communities’ resources and which those communities often actively oppose. Globally, police hold power in the form of deadly weapons and recognized authority, while intentionally inhibiting the population’s right to organize against unjust realities. To disrupt that pattern and reduce police violence, real accountability is needed – both for the police themselves and for the companies who employ them.