LIMA – The government declared a state of emergency in a southern Peruvian province after two people died in clashes between police and local residents, who have been protesting for days against a mining company.
In addition to the two fatalities, the confrontations with police have left dozens of people injured and spurred President Ollanta Humala’s administration on Monday to declare the state of emergency, which hands the control of local order to the police for 30 days.
The public in the province of Espinar, in the Cuzco region, is demanding an investigation into alleged environmental damage caused by the copper mining firm Tintaya, which belongs to Swiss mining company Xstrata, and that the firm’s contribution to local authorities for development be raised 3 percent to 30 percent.
Two people died in clashes with police, apparently from gunshots, and dozens of civilians and officers were injured to varying degrees.
“There are two people dead, one who is being evacuated in very serious condition and many injured, all because there is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the executive branch to be able to appreciate the real problems of Espinar,” Espinar Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca said.
Although the mayor said that the identities of the fatalities were not known, he said that he had seen the bodies in the city morgue, while television channel N identified one of the dead as Florecindo Mamani Puma, 27.
The man, according to relatives, was shot while he was on a nearby hill observing the clashes, although he was not participating in them.
Interior Minister Wilver Calle confirmed the deaths of two people and said that the police had to respond to the “attacks, provocation and forceful measures, with the burning of pastures and throwing of stones” by the demonstrators.
On Monday, 30 police officers were injured, in addition to the 46 who were injured on Sunday, Calle said.
“They used rubber bullets and when the police were placed in danger, they had to repel the attack ... (The deaths) have been as a result of the attitude that the townspeople have taken,” Calle said.
After the deaths were confirmed, the protesters attacked several vehicles that were moving along the highway linking Espinar with Cuzco and captured a prosecutor who was driving in the area.
After making him walk barefoot for several hours, the demonstrators agreed to release him at the request of the apostolic vicarage.
Meanwhile, police on Tuesday arrested the president of the Espinar Defense Front, Herbert Huaman, who is promoting the open-ended strike in the province against Xstrata.
According to television images from channel N, Huaman was in the company of several companions when he was arrested by police at the door of a hospital in Espinar. The officers placed him in an open pickup truck and took him away, with one of the uniformed officers firing repeatedly into the air with an automatic rifle.
Xstrata, which is based in the Swiss town of Zoug, said Tuesday that it is making efforts to launch a dialogue and that calm is returning to the area.
“We’re deeply dismayed by the violent protests yesterday in the province of Espinar, which took the lives of two people,” An Xstrata spokesman told Efe on Tuesday.
The aim is to “restore peace and order in the province,” the spokesman said. EFE