Fighting between demonstrators and national police in the Cusco region yesterday left two people dead. Protestors claim this morning that four people have been killed in total since Monday during protests against the mining company Xstrata Copper.
The violence escalated yesterday when protestors tried to take over a camp of mining company workers in South Eastern district of Espinar.
Around 1,500 police guarding the camp fought off demonstrators, leaving two protestors dead and 15 injured, while more than 30 police were injured. Many buildings were burnt down.
Rudecindo Manuelo Puma, 27, died on the way to hospital in Espinar after being shot by a bullet in his heart. The other victim has yet to be identified.
“I want to investigate four deaths,” Óscar Mollohuanca, the Mayor of Espinar who led the demonstration, told Peruvian radio station Radio Programas. He added that police while had shot point blank at protestors, “we only used stones to defend ourselves when we were attacked.”
Official government reports contradict the mayor’s accusations, stating the police only used weapons in self-defence. Interior Minister Wilver Calle claimed that only two people have died in fighting so far. The government also claimed that 70 police have been injured in total.
After eight days of clashes in anti-mining protests, the Peruvian government has called for a state of emergency in the district of Espinar, Cusco Province. Oscar Valdes, the Peruvian prime minister, announced the state of emergency on the grounds that “it is no longer a peaceful demonstration, but one with extremists.”
The state of emergency will provide police with special powers for 30 days to restore peace, but also suspends the civil liberties of the people of Espinar. This is the second state of emergency since President Ollanta Humala took office 10 months ago.
Protestors claim that the Swiss company, Xstrata Copper, who are the fourth largest copper producer in the world, are harming the environment and do not provide enough for the local economy.