Torture, Majaz Mine & UK Ambassador Richard Ralph

Not all diplomats are created equal, while Craig Murray displayed admirable courage and principle others…not so much.

Meet Richard Ralph, former UK Ambassador to Peru-

Times Newspapers/Rex Features

Richard Ralph being fitted for a ceremonial hat in 1996 for his role as governor of the Falkland Islands. Photograph: Times Newspapers/Rex Features

He began his Whitehall service in 1969, after gaining an MSc in social science from Edinburgh University, with a position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During the 1970s and 1980s, his work took him to British embassies in Laos, Portugal, Zimbabwe and Washington. He was appointed Ambassador to Latvia in 1993, before becoming Governor of the Falkland Islands in 1996, soon after Britain and Argentina signed an agreement on oil exploration around the islands. He served there till 1999.

As Ambassador to Romania from 2000 to 2003, Mr Ralph was involved in the country’s entry into Nato.

Now Dickie, sadly, is not a stranger to scandal, here’s what he also did while in Romania-

Mr Ralph was drawn into the controversy surrounding the purchase by Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, of Sidex, a Romanian steel plant. Mr Ralph submitted a letter in support of Mr Mittal’s bid to the Romanian Government, signed by Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. Weeks before, Mr Mittal had donated £125,000 to the Labour Party. Mr Ralph, who had held meetings with Mr Mittal before he made his bid, was present in July 2001 when Mr Mittal and the Romanian Prime Minister signed the contract.

Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, insisted that Mr Ralph had simply been doing as he was told. MPs later criticised the Foreign Office for putting Mr Ralph in the invidious position of promoting the interests of a company that had funded the Labour Party.

Mines and Communities:- No competitive tenders were offered, and Lakshmi Mittal got the plant for a knockdown £300 million. This came shortly after the company’s eponymous founder handed a cool quarter of a million pounds to the Labour Party. Although Britain’s prime minister claimed he knew nothing about this particular sleazy deal, four years later Tony Bliar himself intervened to support Oxus Gold, when the new, popularly-elected president of Kyrgyzstan cancelled the AIM-listed company’s contract. In his rebuke, Bliar berated president Kurmanbek Bakiyev for not “living up to obligations under his [Bliar’s] global anti-corruption initiative.

Just five weeks later, the UK prime minister himself was under siege for allowing honours to be sold in exchange for massive secretive loans made to his political party.

Thing is though, he did do as he was told and went on to be appointed Ambassador to Peru, so I’m not sure how much of a victim he was, certainly his career continued. So onto Peru where in 2004 oddly for a UK Ambassador who is generally meant to represent British interests and promote British business he lobbied against Ferrovias Central Andino (Central Railway) to operate in Machu Picchu in favour of Orient Express/PERURAIL maintaining a monopoly (which is extensively exploited making it one of the priciest routes in all of Latin America). That is odd because Central Railway’s single biggest shareholder at the time was the British Government, the Commonwealth Development Corp, with 30% of the Ferrovias Central Andino (although as ‘Lady’ Amos shows CDC money -from our taxes- is rarely respectedLady Amos, who was international development secretary and leader of the Lords in Tony Blair’s government, has taken up a directorship with an African private equity firm, three months after it received over £15m from a Whitehall agency wholly owned by her former department.).

Orient Express while they maintained a London office are registered in …Bermuda, hey there Mr Taxman, nobody home! (incidentally at that time, 2004, Orient Express were on the  Burma Campaign’s Dirty List for owning businesses in Burma and trading with the regime. They are no longer on it). Maybe he just liked the shorts.

But that is small change, while it might cause trouble within the FCO (an ambassador working against UK government and business interests, they might ask what did they pay him for) things get much nastier…


Melanio Garcia RIP

Melanio García RIP

Enter Monterrico Metals, which in 2005 was a UK owned business with a mining development at Majaz, let Otto continue the story with his translation of the report by the National Coordinator of Human Rights in Peru-

Since 2003 the mining company Majaz, today named Rio Blanco, operated in an irregular manner in the territory of the rural communities Segunda y Cajas and Yanta, in the northern frontier of Peru. The presence of the mining company is irregular as it did not have the consent of the two thirds majority of communal assembly as required by the law 26505, as noted by the People’s Defence ombudsman (report 001-2006/ASPMA-MA). For two years the communities affected tried to use channels of dialogue with the State to demand the respect of their territorial rights, without any success.

At the end of July 2005 the communities began a peaceful march towards the mining camp where, according to an offer from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, they were to meet with a high level multisectoral commission. The communities have noted on many occasions that it was a very difficult march, because it implied walking for several days through dense vegetation in extreme climatic conditions.

On arriving at the mining camp on August 1st 2005, the group was not received by the anticipated commission for dialogue, but instead a large police contingent that brutally repressed them, throwing tear gas canisters from helicopters and firing live rounds at the people, even when they were fleeing.

Under these circumstances 29 people, including two women and the journalist Julio Vázquez Calle, were apprehended and taken inside the mining camp. They were held there for three days and were submitted to various forms of psychological and physical torture. As well as being savagely beaten, in those three days they were kept blindfolded by bags sprinkled with tear-inducing powder and with their eyes bandaged. They were also deprived of warm clothing despite the low temperatures.

According to the testimonies of the group, from time to time a toxic powder was put on their faces under the bags and bandages that made them vomit and did not let them breathe properly. The women were subjected to diverse sexual assaults. Also, they were all inflicted with diverse verbal humiliations and threats.

In October 2007 the US institute ‘Physicians For Human Rights’ (recipients of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize) performed examinations on eight of the tortured people and confirmed the abuses they had suffered during their illegal detention.

The responsibility for these occurances lies with various members of the Peruvian National Police Force that directly participated in the illegal actions and also the security personnel of the company Minera Majaz that directly intervened in the occurances. The tortures happened in the interior of the mining camp.

There is also this translation by Memory in Latin America blog of further testimony from an article by Carlos Castro from La Republica [emphasis mine]-

On the 28th July 2005, while the then-President Alejandro Toledo led the country and made new promises to the poor, police officers in the service of mining company Majaz repressed, captured and tortured inhabitants from Yanta and Segunda and Cajas, in Ayabaca and Huancabamba (Piura), causing the death of one of them. Photographs submitted to the population some days ago and published by this newspaper reveal the magnitude of the barbarous treatment which until now, more than 3 years later, continues to enjoy impunity.

The images show the villagers in the mining company’s camp, cornered, with bloody faces, enmarrocados*, barefoot, with bruises on their bodies, their heads covered with bags which, according to their testimony, contained irritant powder which impeded their breathing. If these photos remind us of the prisoners of Guantanamo, the testimonies of the villagers, victims of abduction and torture, lead us to ask ourselves: how could this happen in a democracy? We have gathered some of the testimonies given in press conferences this week in Piura, and others which appear in the complaint [denuncia] presented by the National Coordinator of Human Rights and the Ecumenical Foundation for Development and Peace to the fifth provincial prosecutor’s office in Piura. The testimonies and graphic documents demonstrate the power of a group of police and the privilege which some mining companies enjoy.

Mario Tabra Guerrero, President of the Ayabaca Defence Front and one of the 28 detained, says: “We were taken to a bathroom where they tortured us for three days, accusing us of being terrorists: ‘sons of bitches, you’re going to die, why don’t you let the company work, ignorant shitty indians’.

When the prisoners called to God, they said ‘Dinoes [Peruvian special operations police] is God’. When they changed shift the relevant people approached me and asked ‘which is the teacher?’. They approached me, took off my jacket, they sprayed me with irritant powder, dressed me again and beat me. The same thing happened to the detainees.”

The detainee Cleofé Neyra was asked about Ramiro Ibáñez, Benito Guarnizo and Josefa Adrianzén (leaders of local defense patrols): “Why didn’t those terrorists come to the march? We are going to kill you. Why didn’t you stay and shag your husband? You’re whores (the police said this while putting their hands between her legs) Why did you come here? This (the land) is private property.”

Elizabeth Cunya complained of the cold and they told her: “You’re not going to need clothes in the next life where you’re going”. A policeman took off Cleofé Neyra’s costal* and said to her: “You, old woman, you’re not going to pay. She (Elizabeth) will pay. Tell me if you’re a terrorist. If you tell me, nothing will happen to you. If you don’t say, we’re going to rape her.”

While Yony Carrión Febres was restrained [?enmarrocado] face down, they hit him with a macana [wooden weapon or truncheon]; they smashed Sinesio Jiménez’s head against the floor; a police officer walked on the back of Samuel Mezones; they stuffed rotten meat into the mouth of Ricardo Ruiz and forced him to eat it.

Melanio García was killed by a shot after being tortured. “It was as if we were in a concentration camp,” said one of the detainees. What do the villagers want: respect for their model of development based on agriculture, livestock and ecotourism. On the other side, the mining company breaks the law and operates without the consent of 2/3 of the community assemblies. And with all this, there are some politicians who protest when the villages make their claim.

There is lots more and photos @ Otto’s site, Inca Kola News.

For a long time Monterrico Metals and the authorities denied everything, but now with medical proof and photographic evidence… their denials actually provide further grounds for charges to be brought. The story is about to hit the mainstream media, Reuters have reported and PM Yehude Simon has made a public statement as it hit front pages in Peru, three people have already been arrested. So what, you ask, is Richard Ralph’s role in this, that’s a good question. And I have only some answers at this point and yet more questions. You see in 2006 Richard Ralph stepped down as our ambassador to Peru and took up the Chairmanship of … Monterrico Metals he then went on to oversee the sale to a Chinese corporation a sale which he fraudulency used to make insider trading deals to profit himself, we know this because he was caught

Richard Ralph, the former executive chairman of Aim-listed mining company, Monterrico Metals, was fined £117,691.41 by the Financial Services Authority, and his friend, the Belgian businessman Filip Boyen, received a £81,982.95 penalty for dealing in Monterrico’s shares on the basis of inside information.

It should be noted he cooperated and paid the fine because he was bang to rights & it got him a reduction of 30% (£45,000), and Filip Boyen, guess who he is-

MANAGEMENT RESTRUCTURING AT ORIENT-EXPRESS HOTELS– Filip Boyen Vice President, Operations, formerly Vice President, Africa, Latin America and Australasia

Part of the consortium for which Ralph lobbied on the train deal.

So here’s the rub, a UK ambassador in Peru at a time when a UK mining company in conjunction with the police is behind the kidnap and torture of peaceful protesters with a legitimate grievances against an illegal mining project. Who then goes on to head this mining company. Is it reasonably possible he was ignorant of their crimes? Of the racist component? Of their laughable attempt to call protesters terrorists even as they tortured them? At the time he was an ambassador did he uphold any commitment to human rights and look to investigate this British company and Peruvian police abuses? Surely a UK ambassador to Peru who then goes on to become chair of a UK company abusing people in Peru should do due diligence to see what the company did in Peru? Are we to believe he knew nothing of what went on in Majaz? As his history shows his personal ethics are… a tad shaky shall we say, the question is- Were human right abuses swept under the rug on behalf of a UK mining company and the host government by an ambassador who then went on to chair that company? Maybe he provides his own answer-

Mines and Communities- On March 22nd 2006 we commented:
“Several months ago, the British ambassador to Peru…went on record as supporting Monterrico Metals’ Rio Blanco project. Ambassador Richard Ralph even had the gall to state that UK mining norms are ‘among the most rigorous in the entire world’ – a statement as daft as it is disingenuous. Try telling that to the day labourers at Vedanta’s bauxite mines in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Or to farmers downstream of wastes, spewed from Xstrata’s Alumbrera operations in Argentina.”

In his statements appearing in the Peruvian daily paper La Hora, translated from this page, (ht2 to the proprietary Ottotrans system) Richard Ralph is reported on 11th Nov ’05 as saying-

“Our norms are amongst the most rigourous in the world and in our society there is a lot of pressure from shareholders and the British public to make companies respect the environment; this is the power of public opinion in our country, and because of this I have every confidence that Majaz will strictly comply with the rules.”

“I understand perfectly the lack of trust and that is why my government, my embassy, other embassies, the large multinational British companies etc are trying to converse more openly, constructively with the government and with the populations where the mines are found. It is a process in which one must try to reconstruct trust, but it is not easy.”

So just 3 months after the kidnappings and torture. He either does zero research before he opens his mouth, or… such a statement and his subsequent chairmanship of Monterrico Metals indicates he was part of the cover up, and this is important- while a serving ambassador for the United Kingdom.

Check Inca Kola News for more as this unfolds.