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Civil Liberties Suspended in Peru over Mining Protest

Civil Liberties Suspended in Peru over Mining Protest

The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, officially declared the country in a state of emergency this week after violent clashes broke out between protesters and police. This declaration officially strips the population of basic civil rights, such as freedom of assembly. It also allows for arrests without warrants. The province of Espinar, the site of a large copper mine, has been at the center of the tension between protesters and police.

The Tintaya copper mine is owned by a Swiss company, Xstrata, and locals are frustrated. They worry that the mine is contaminating water supplies, threatening the health of people and animals in the area. CBS News reports that a study conducted by the Roman Catholic Church in the last year showed high levels of copper and mercury in the water. The Swiss company denies any wrongdoing and maintains that the copper mine does not pollute the water sources.

The weekend proved to be one of the most violent since the indefinite strike was started by the mining workers. Two protesters were killed when police opened fire on the crowd. The government claims that as many as 46 police officers were injured in the melee that took place on Sunday and Monday, but no specifics were given as to why the police started firing at citizens in the first place, CBS News reports. Government reports attempt to victimize the police although none were killed in the confrontation. Demonstrators without guns were the ultimate victims over the weekend.

Protesters are reported to have taken a prosecutor hostage for a short time, who was later released. Reuters quotes one protesting woman who avowed that the police were mercilessly violent during the protest. She stated that they “have shamelessly kicked us and they have shamelessly beaten us with rocks.”

This is the second mining protest in the last year, which ended in President Humala declaring a state of emergency. The last uprising was against the pollution caused by a proposed Conga mining project in the Cajamarca state in December. Civil liberties were suspended for 60 days during those protests. The Conga gold mining project has now been suspended and activists are still planning more demonstrations in the coming week to stop further Conga developments.

President Humala and Prime Minister Oscar Valdes argue that the protesters in the Espinar region have taken a radical stance and are unwilling to negotiate. Protesters have demanded that the Swiss mining company bump up the amount they pay local authorities from three to 30 percent, CNN reports. They also demand more information about the pollution of water sources and local lands.

It looks unlikely that protesters’ demands will be heard under the current curtailment of civil liberties. Both Valdes and Humala argue that the state of emergency will make it easier for a dialogue to take place between local reformers and the government. With two deaths having already occurred and arrests without warrants now legal, the tense positioning of protesters and the government looks to continue for several more weeks.

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Photo Credit: Xtremizta

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15 comments

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11:01PM PDT on Apr 22, 2013

Doesn't sound at all hopeful under the present leaders, who appear to be pro-mining and ignoring the voices of their people. Much too common everywhere.

10:59AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

thanks

12:17AM PST on Feb 8, 2013

The protesters want more rights with the work they have? ow.

8:34PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Brave protestors and journalists !
and big mining companies wonder why they have such a dirty name ...

3:03PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Corruption and greed poison the minds of people all over the world.

9:55AM PDT on May 30, 2012

why don't these countries play clever - I can understand that they need the revenue from mining etc. but why don't they demand as part of any agreement strict laws in relation to pollution, local people's safety and communities etc. and wildlife habitat etc. that way they could get the revenue for their country and preserve as much as possible of what is really valuable. It's ok I know the answer corruption and unethical big mining corporations - sad really. We cannot do much about corruption in the countries themselves but we can name and shame and lobby the mining conglobarates - well we can try.

9:54AM PDT on May 30, 2012

why don't these countries play clever - I can understand that they need the revenue from mining etc. but why don't they demand as part of any agreement strict laws in relation to pollution, local people's safety and communities etc. and wildlife habitat etc. that way they could get the revenue for their country and preserve as much as possible of what is really valuable. It's ok I know the answer corruption and unethical big mining corporations - sad really. We cannot do much about corruption in the countries themselves but we can name and shame and lobby the mining conglobarates - well we can try.

8:38AM PDT on May 30, 2012

.....a state of emergency is a way for Ollanta Humala to crush the legitimate rights of Peru's miners and others seeking redress from poor environmental laws that favour those who seek to "rape" the countries mineral wealth with impunity and pollute the water supply at the same time.

7:52AM PDT on May 30, 2012

Well, this IS how Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia got their current governments.
So I guess we CAN say that these heartless capitalist pigs do have a purpose - Push the envelope till folks say "Uncle", then push more until they take up arms against you.

I'm guessing Humala is NOT going to get another term unless one of the developed nations goes down there and steals it for him.

7:40AM PDT on May 30, 2012

awful.

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