Unrest has marred the Peruvian countryside over the entirety of the year as local groups have protested against the invasion of foreign mining companies. The current president, Ollanta Humala, has come under massive pressure from residents after multiple tense and violent clashes occurred between local people and police forces in both rural mining areas and the capital.
Reuters states that Humala’s popularity has fallen by 5 percentage points this month, according to a recent poll done by Ipso Apollo. That means Humala has lost support for the last two consecutive months, bringing his approval rating to an all-time low of 40 percent.
Over the course of the year since Humala has been in office (he was inaugurated last July), protests have arisen over a number of mines in the country. In late May of this year, the president suspended all civil liberties and called a national state of emergency. His announcement came on the heels of massive protests relating to the Tintaya copper mine, which is owned by a Swiss company.
Local residents fear that the mining activities will contaminate drinking water, land, and the animals they raise in the area. Protesters lashed out at security personnel and police fired into the crowd during the May protest. Humala quickly called a 60-day state of emergency that barred any public gatherings, freedom of speech, and also allowed for arrests without warrants.
This was the second state of emergency the current president has called in the present year. The Conga mining project has also received serious criticisms from radical protesters who have also organized in the major city of Lima over these last few months, hoping to stop the development of this massive gold mine. Humala’s loss in popularity is not the most extreme shift in public opinion of a president in Peru. Former President Alejandro Toledo only had an approval rating of 18 percent at one point, according to Reuters.
Some analysts believe that protesters felt betrayed by Humala’s actions over the last year, causing major upheavals and backlashes at the government as well as the foreign mining companies that are moving into rural areas.
Miguel Santillana, an economist working on mining issues, told 4 Traders, “There is a concerted movement of local leaders who backed Humala before the elections that now feel betrayed.” This particular analyst believes that protesters are withholding their support for Humala and using the environmental conditions as an excuse order to protest the economic model of the current president.
The reasons for these intense political battles on the ground of Peru are nuanced and complicated. It is unlikely any one factor decides which workers and organizers decide to protest current conditions. The Ipso Apollo poll also found that over 50 percent of people in Peru believe that political leaders are manipulating the population into supporting endeavors such as the newly developed copper and gold mines.
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