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Peru police arrest mayor who led mine protests

May 30, 2012 |  6:55 pm

Peru protests
LIMA, Peru --  Peruvian police on Wednesday arrested a mayor who supported protests against a mining project in southeastern Peru amid violence that  prompted President Ollanta Humala to declare a state of emergency this week.

Espinar Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca, one of the principal leaders of a weeklong protest against a $1.5-billion expansion of the Tintaya copper mine, was forcibly detained at City Hall and later transferred to a jail in Cusco. The apparent reason was his support of a general strike in defiance of Humala's emergency decree.

More than a dozen police officers entered City Hall to arrest Mollohuanca as he was meeting with other city officials,  television reports said.

Over the last several days, violent protests have left two civilians dead and at least 70 police officers injured in Espinar province. The proposed project would be an expansion of a mine operated by Xstrata of Switzerland.

 Humala's emergency decree on Tuesday suspended constitutional rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.

Local residents have complained about Xstrata's hiring practices and alleged environmental violations, as well as claiming the  royalties paid to local governments are too small.

 At least 1,500 police officers were sent to Espinar province by Humala in a bid to restore order. Another protest leader, Herbert Huaman, was arrested Tuesday.

Also on Wednesday, protesters announced  a general strike in northern Cajamarca province in protest of the Conga mining project proposed by Newmont Mining of Colorado. The $4.8-billion project has been in abeyance for several months since Humala declared a state of emergency there as well after  widespread protests.


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-- Adriana Leon

Photo: A protester in Peru prepares to sling a rock at police during clashes linked to a strike against Swiss miner Xstrata. Credit: Fredy Hurtdado / European Pressphoto Agency