BREAKING NEWS: New female concessionaire of Hatun Machay denounced by former Argentine administrator

The Huaraz Telegraph obtained a copy of a criminal complaint which was filed by Argentine citizen Andrés Saibene against Rosario Del Pilar Obregón Dominguez on the 30th of May. The latter is being accused of being the author of usurpation and damages of the refuge at the rock forest of Hatun Machay. The criminal complaint was presented at the criminal prosecution of Recuay. Saibene managed the site from June 2004 until May 2016 after the concession contract he had with the Pampas Chico community (owners of the land where Hatun Machay is located) had expired and he is accusing Obregón of usurpation and of causing damages.

Last week, Rosario Obregón Domínguez, who now openly claims to be the new concessionaire of Hatun Machay, spoke to the local press (except for us of course) announcing that the rock forest of Hatun Machay has officially reopened to visitors on the 29th of last month. This is a strange use of the word since the rock forest was never actually closed at any given time, only the refuge was closed for business.  So, it is not quite clear what this “reopening” entails since it is believed the refuge is still closed. According to psychologist Obregón, a couple of new disciplines such as slackline and cross country running will be offered to tourists. These activities can be practiced near the community of Pampas Chico. Obregón said in her declarations to the press that the community of Catac will also be part of her administration and that this new period will be better than the previous administration. However, Obregón did not specify for how long she has been granted the concession.

Although Obregón in her recent interview with the local press said she did not have any problems with the preceding administrator and that there will be no restrictions for visitors, her actions on Facebook tell a different story. On the 14th of May, she stated that five people in Huaraz were declared ´personae non gratae´, three foreigners, including a reporter (this must be us!) and two Peruvians, meaning that these five persons are not allowed to visit Hatun Machay. One of the Peruvians in question appears to be mountain guide Beto Pinto Toledo. On April the 27th, Pinto Toledo received a notarial letter in which Rosario Obregón demanded the rectification of an interview given on local broadcaster Cable Andino for the reason of having declared ´unadjusted versions of truth´. Another player in this conflict is the aforementioned Argentine citizen Andrés Saibene. The former administrator of Hatun Machay informed The Huaraz Telegraph that he has decided to denounce the new concessionaire for usurpation and damages. Saibene claims that because the place is in dispute since last year and no legal solution has been found yet, the refuge in question still belongs to him since Saibene built it with his own money.

In a recent online article, Obregón, the lady who declared our editor persona non grata, explained the reason why she got involved in Hatun Machay. She basically says that ´voices´ told her to administrate Hatun Machay. She recalled: ¨I remember that I got up and, wanting to leave my tent; a woman’s voice told me ‘get up and work’. I then started to connect, to ask people what I could do to help them, how to rent the place. That´s how everything began a year ago. That voice, I do not know if it were the mountains, a virgin or the patroness of the place, but I know it was a woman.¨

The Huaraz Telegraph was also able to obtain a copy of the testimony of the public deed of mutual agreement (contract between the Pampas Chico community and Andean Kingdom E.I.R.L represented by Saibene) which offered the agency Andean Kingdom an assignment of exclusive use of tourist exploitation throughout the area of Hatun Machay for eight years from 2006 to 2014. On the other hand, the community had the exclusivity to charge a reasoned and balanced entrance fee of each tourist transferred to the area. The twelve page long contract also indicates that the agency was authorised by the community to build a refuge/lodge, whose possession would be handed over through a formal act by the president of the community. During the construction work and activities of the operation of the refuge/lodge itself, the agency should preferably employ community members. The contract logically also shows financial conditions and clauses but these we shall not share.

After having analysed the contract, it appears to contain a loophole. At no point is it mentioned what would happen with the refuge after the concession is ended. Considering that Saibene is the one who built the place, understandably, he feels he is (still) the rightful owner until this conflict has found a legal solution. Therefore, no one could use the refuge, nor the site in order to make money, so he claims.

Saibene has claimed to our editor on two occasions that he has not been back to Hatun Machay since July 2016 and stressed that it was not him who set the refuge and chozas (huts) on fire. This claim may come as a surprise to many people, as a lot of people in Huaraz are accusing Saibene of having burned the place down. A recently published video, filmed by some French tourists, shows why Hatun Machay is not a safe place at the moment. The tourists were camping at the site when one of the huts was set on fire.

Since we haven’t been to Hatun Machay recently, we cannot confirm whether the promised improvements by the new concessionaire have been implemented. The same is the case with some climbing routes that had been rebolted by a group of students from the Casa de Guias in the “Placa Verde” sector and which unfortunately appear to have once again been unbolted only a couple of weeks ago. According to climber Camila Chamizo from Argentina, who wrote a comment on Zarela Zamora´s Facebook page, this act was committed by a ´compatriot´ and an accomplice. Until some reliable evidence comes to light, we unfortunately cannot be sure of anything.

In 2016, Saibene also denounced the Pampas Chico community at the Recuay prosecutor’s office for alleged robbery and theft  of his belongings he had stored in a room at the refuge. This alleged robbery and theft is also mentioned in the copy of the criminal complaint we received. As we communicated earlier to our readers and followers, unless the site is 100% safe for tourists, we cannot recommend people going there, despite others gainsaying.

Almost certainly, to be continued…

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