Anti-Mining Protests in Peru Surge, Mayor Arrested

Compiled & Composed by Britni

Peruvian riot police clad with helmets and plastic shields charged in to the municipal building in Espinar, Peru on Wednesday  to arrest mayor Oscar Mollohuanca in his office for leading a protest against Swiss-based global mining company Xstrata. This is President Ollanta Humala’s latest attempt to end conflicts over natural resources in favor of mining investments. The recent protests against expanding the mining projects in Peru are part of an ongoing struggle and the climate of unrest surges.

Anti-mining protests against the Peruvian government’s latest plan to expand the profits from Xstrata has highlighted Peru’s class divide. In a conflict of interest, thousands of city-dwelling Peruvians who have profited from the violent extraction of resources resulting in a commodities boom in the past decade marched in support of the country’s largest-ever $50 billion mining project on Tuesday. Meanwhile, 60 percent of rural Peruvians are poverty-stricken, and many involved in similar mining projects are injured or dead.

Recent deaths related to the mining operation and subsequent protests resulted in the Peruvian government declaring a 30 day state of emergency. At least 10 people have died in disputes over natural resources since President Ollanta Humala took office in July. Reportedly, 174 people died in similar protests during the five-year term of Humala’s predecessor Alan Garcia. 

Presently, freedom of assembly has been suspended and police have powers specific to suiting the Peruvian government’s goals of squelching the protests and continuing the mining project. One day after the declaration of emergency, protest leader Herbert Huaman–president of the Front for the Defence of Espinar– was arrested, accompanied now with 24 other protesters as of May 29, 2012. 

Says Huaman: “President Humala, you have been a social crusader, but now you have forgotten, brother, come and converse with us and resolve this problem yourself.”

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