LIMA – Peru’s government has declared a state of emergency in the southern province of Islay after fresh clashes pitting anti-mining protesters against police left one dead and five wounded.
In a press conference late Friday, Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano said the government made the decision to decree a state of emergency in all districts of Islay, a province in the southern Peruvian region of Arequipa, for 60 days.
Under the terms of the measure, National Police officers and army soldiers will take over law-enforcement duties in Islay, and the right to inviolability of the home, freedom of transit and freedom of assembly will be suspended, Cateriano said.
Democracy is a system that requires citizens to resolve their differences within the framework of the constitution and the law, the prime minister said.
“But when circumstances show that a group does not wish to abide by the constitution, the government has the legal instruments to guarantee the maintenance of law and order,” he added.
Protests in Islay against Southern Copper Corp.’s Tia Maria project have thus far left four dead and dozens injured.
Those protests began on March 23, and mine opponents have continued to hold demonstrations and block roads even though Southern Copper, a unit of Mexican mining giant Grupo Mexico, announced a 60-day “pause” in the project to allow time to allay local farmers’ concerns.
Around 400 demonstrators tried on Friday to block a section of the Panamericana Sur highway, Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe said in the same press conference, prompting clashes with National Police officers that left one man dead and three demonstrators and two police wounded.
The fatal victim sustained a heavy blow near his left eye, the minister said, adding that a mob responded by attacking the police station in the town of Cocachacra, the epicenter of the conflict, with rocks and dynamite.
Cateriano said, for his part, that the government has “made every effort possible” to resolve the dispute and from the beginning has condemned the use of violence as a problem-solving mechanism.
Local farmers opposed to the project say it will contaminate their crops in the Tambo River valley.
Southern Copper plans to invest some $1.4 billion in the construction of Tia Maria, which is projected to produce 120,000 metric tons of copper cathodes annually from the start of operations.