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Six People Killed in Peru as Police Disburse Miners’ Protest

April 7, 2010 By Staff

At least six people were killed, 29 injured, dozens detained and thousands more were left stranded on the highway for two nights after police clashed with striking miners in Peru on Sunday.

Halfway between Lima and Arequipa on the Panamerican highway, more than 5,000 informal miners blocked the highway on Sunday, impeding the thousands of passengers heading home for work on Monday after Holy Week.

Protesters reject the government’s new laws protecting the environment against damage caused by informal mining. The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in the area on April 1 and ordered security forces to remove the roadblock using force. Protesters threw sticks and rocks at police, who fired on the crowd with teargas and bullets, according to Peruvian daily La Republica. Others said that some protesters carried guns, Reuters reports. Nine of those injured were policemen.

Here’s an excerpt of Reuters reporting on the conflict that appeared on The New York Times and Washington Post Web sites Tuesday:

Thousands of Peruvian wildcat miners were locked in a tense standoff with police on Monday after six people were killed during a protest against stricter environmental controls imposed by the government.

The violence broke out near the town of Chala, 372 miles south of the capital Lima, on Sunday when police tried to clear a roadblock set by the miners on the Panamerican Highway leading to Chile.

Two of the dead were bystanders, including a taxi driver struck by a stray bullet and a woman who suffered a heart attack. Police said 20 protesters and nine officers were injured in the country’s latest conflict over natural resources.

Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the killings. “An independent and impartial investigation is absolutely critical to ensure that those responsible for these killings are brought to justice,” said Americas Director at Human Rights Watch José Miguel Vivanco, in a press release.

The conflict remains unresolved. A Congressional delegation met with strike leaders on Tuesday, but did not arrive at an agreement. Peruvian President Alán García responded to the protests, saying that he refused to change his policy toward informal mining, pointing to the polluted rivers of the jungle province Madre de Dios as his defense.

President García came into conflict with indigenous communities in the Amazon last summer. Peruvian security forces killed at least 25 protesters who opposed government decrees opening Amazonian territories to foreign investment and allowing petroleum, logging and hydroelectric energy companies to operate in the area without consulting indigenous groups. The government backed down and suspended the decrees after breaking the protests.

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