Rony Cueto, Secretary General of the contracted miners’ union at the Marcona mine in the Ica region of southern Peru, has been held by authorities since early June. An indefinite strike of contracted miners against the Chinese transnational company which owns the mine, Shougang Hierro Peru, had commenced two months earlier. Contract workers have been demanding an end to the treacherous working conditions and starvation wages which are the lot of superexploited informal workers nationally. The bosses use a number of schemes to hire the majority of miners in Peru today as “temporary” workers – although in reality they work year after year, each time under a different contract. This supposedly illegal practice is rampant and is the basis for massive profit-making in this central sector of the Peruvian economy.
Cueto himself is 39 years old and has worked 14 years at Shougang as a contracted miner. He has been a leading voice for contracted workers nationally, representing a challenge to the traditional union bureaucracy, as well as the mining bosses and the openly neoliberal regime of President Alan Garcia. He is being held in a maximum security prison. At least nine other leaders of this union have also been jailed.
In this period, other struggles have erupted in the mining sector. The contracted miners at Casapalca, a mine located in the Department of Lima, are in the same local as at Shougang. They have suffered at least five deaths and mass dismissals of union leaders and members in response to a strike waged for union recognition, job security for all, and a general end to inhuman work conditions.
As we write, a national strike of teachers has taken center stage, and other workers and strata of the population have also been waging strikes and protests. The recent days of marches and general strikes in various regions, which began on July 11, occurred in the face of increased repression by the police, backed by the Army, in every important center of the country. Random jailings and state violence are becoming the commonplace modus operandi of the regime. Garcia’s increased militiary authoritarianism occurs during the push for the final passage of a bilateral free trade agreement with the U.S., a deal which is passionately opposed by many Peruvian workers and peasants as an instrument of imperialist domination.
The central union bureaucracy of both the Miners’ Federation and the overall union central (CGTP or Central General de Trabajadores Perú) have betrayed the ranks of miners and all workers. They have refused to unite the whole working class in an indefinite general strike. The working class of Peru – in alliance with the peasantry – has the power to turn back the attacks! It would be criminal if the mass organizations did not organize the necessary response, including a mass self-defense plan for each and every struggle.
As part of this struggle, expressions of international solidarity are vital. Join in demanding the freedom of Rony Cueto, and other sequestered and incarcerated worker leaders and militants. Send statements of solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. (A copy can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.) For useful coverage of the Cueto case and the ongoing struggles of workers in Peru, we suggest that Spanish language readers check out www.marconaprotesta.wordpress.com and also contact us. English language readers are also invited to write us at email@example.com, for updates about the Cueto case and the general struggle.
July 15, 2007