LIMA – Three people died, at least 38 were injured and more than 50 were arrested in clashes between illegal miners and police in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios, officials said.
Interior Minister Daniel Lozada confirmed those figures to the media after the miners and police fought for hours Wednesday on the streets of the southeastern city of Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital.
The miners vandalized government offices and businesses and even tried to occupy the Puerto Maldonado airport, the Ombudsman’s Office told Efe.
Illegal miners in La Libertad, Piura, Apurimac and Puno also set up roadblocks in those regions to express their support for the protesters in Madre de Dios, although no clashes with police were reported.
The illegal miners are protesting a new law – due to be enacted shortly – that establishes prison time for miners who do not regularize their situation, adhere to environmental regulations and pay taxes.
The illegal miners launched violent protests early Wednesday, attempting to seize the Puerto Maldonado airport, occupy the city’s market and blockade its main streets, the Ombudsman’s Office representative in Madre de Dios, Guimo Loaiza, said.
Plans for talks between the illegal miners of Madre de Dios and a government delegation fell through on Monday due to disagreement over the number of participants, although another meeting has been scheduled for Friday.
The Peruvian government says most of the illegal miners working in Amazon rivers come from other regions of the country and are not supported by the local population.
Illegal miners have held demonstrations and set up road blockades since last week to protest the new law, which will make their activities punishable by up to 10 years in prison. EFE