Fifty days of protest produce results in Peru

Local farmers fighting plans for a massive copper mine appear to have won a victory: The president of Peru’s SNMPE mining chamber has called for a suspension of the project until social issues can be worked out. SNMPE represents mining companies operating in Peru.

The news came after 50 days of protests – some of which have turned violent – against Southern Copper’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria project, including a 72-hour strike in the region.

Peru has dispatched soldiers to the area; at least three people have been killed in the protests, and more than 200 have been wounded.

“We should give ourselves a space to prevent a further escalation of the violence, because no project can be imposed by force; a truce would be appropriate,” Carlos Galvez told La Republica.

Farmers say the mining operation will contaminate their crops.

Every mistake is a teachable moment

The point of the story is actually to correct something presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, but in the process the story in The Washington Post shows just how complicated – and open to interpretation – the nation’s immigration laws are.

In a May 5 immigration discussion, the former senator and secretary of state said – erroneously – that there is a legal requirement that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain a certain number of people each day.

In fact, the law requires ICE to have a minimum capacity – most of it is obtained through contracts with state and local governments and private contractors – but does not require that capacity be used.

At least, that’s today’s interpretation.

. . . There has been dispute over what exactly this requirement should entail in practice: Whether DHS should simply maintain capacity for 34,000 average daily detainees, or actually detain that many people per day (i.e., 34,000 beds a day, versus 34,000 heads in beds a day).

For years, ICE officials interpreted the mandate as the latter, leading to a record number of immigrants being jailed. The daily detention population increased as Congress increased bed space funding . . . . In March 2013, then-ICE Director John Morton testified to Congress that the agency interpreted the mandate as a requirement to detain 34,000 people a day.

But that has changed under DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, and the agency now says the mandate is only for capacity, not detainees. The average daily detainee population in fiscal 2015 was 26,374, the Post reports.

Which gets back to a point I have made for years, but bears repeating as we head into presidential races: Often, presidential races become contests over big picture issues that the president actually has little control over. In the meantime, the things a president has the most say over – the bureaucratic issues that can make the biggest difference in how the nation actually operates – are routinely ignored.

Government really is like making sausage. The problem is that when choosing a sausage maker, we often focus on who has the best marketing effort, and forget to choose based on who actually makes the best product.

How would Jesus tax the rich?

Another bureaucratic issue we often ignore – or focus on with so little depth it may as well be ignored – is tax policy. But in a recent column for Aljazeera America, tax guru David Cay Johnston reports that more and more Christians are finally waking up to the fact that who has to render unto Caesar – and how much – makes a big difference.

“Now, after years of study and debate, the ninth-largest Protestant denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, has come out with a detailed report that ties the religious duty of believers and government tax policy,” Johnston writes.

Even though most Catholics are not strangers to the church’s social teachings on poverty, it’s getting a new push thanks to Pope Francis. But Johnston points out that there will also be pushback from those politicians – even those of faith – who want only to cut taxes and think cutting social programs is the way to do it. Not to mention those and the very far right who believe taxes are a type of sin and that social programs actually hurt the poor.

“This idea that in a representative democracy – a system in which we ultimately are the government – we have the obligation to levy taxes and spend to alleviate social problems is unlikely to go over well with libertarian-leaning politicians such as Rep. Paul Ryan, a Roman Catholic,” Johnston writes.

Again, for most Catholics this is not new – especially for those familiar with NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus campaigns, as NETWORK has long been about tying policy to beliefs.

But current tax policy increases economic inequality, a situation unlikely to change as long as the rich and powerful have the loudest voices in Congress. It’s also a situation that the founding fathers warned is dangerous, Johnston writes:

One need not be a believer to recognize that inequality is a threat to society. The Founding Fathers, many of whom were nonbelievers or at most deists, warned that extreme inequality would doom our democracy and cost us our freedoms.

President John Adams wrote, “The rich and the proud . . . will destroy all the equality and liberty, with the consent and acclamations of the people themselves.” President James Madison, the Constitution’s main author, described extreme inequality as evil, saying government should prevent “an immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches.”

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook.]

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