Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
CONTINUING TO BE PEASANTS

Union Militancy among Peruvian Miners

JOSH DEWIND

Between 1969 and 1971, miners in the Peruvian Andes engaged in an unprecedented series of strikes. The mines of the U.S.-based Cerro de Pasco Corporation were affected most. From these strikes, the corporation lost three times more production days than during the entire previous decade. The unions led the miners in demanding not only significant improvements in wages and working conditions but also the nationalization of the mines. The mineworkers fought for their demands through hard bargaining with both the company and the Peruvian government, intermittent and sustained work stoppages, marchas de sacrificio on the capital, confrontations with the police, and the kidnapping of company officials.

The Peruvian government had long cooperated with the company in controlling the union activities of the miners, having sent in troops to repress strikes on several occasions. However, the state's relations with the company became uncertain in October 1968, when the Peruvian military took over the government in a bloodless coup d'état and initiated a "revolution" that it characterized as "neither capitalist nor socialist." The military junta intended to promote Peru's industrialization, which the generals believed had been blocked by the agrarian elite that had long dominated Peruvian politics. The government wanted political support for its reforms from popular sectors such as the mineworkers. But it also expected increased foreign investment in mining to provide the foreign exchange earnings necessary to implement its plans for economic development. The rash of strikes during this period incon-

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