The Peruvian government has declared a 30-day state of emergency following four deaths at a protest of the Chinese-owned Las Bambas mine project. The emergency status includes a startling suspension of civil liberties on Peruvians.
After four people were killed amid anti-mining protests, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala declared a 30-day state of emergency in the Apurímac region on Tuesday [Sept 29].
Suspending civil liberties and authorizing military patrols, the government announced that extra troops would be sent to Apurímac “to restore internal peace.”
The four protesters were shot dead during confrontations with the police. Aside from the deaths, 14 protesters were injured in demonstrations against a $7.4 billion copper mine project.
The freedom from unlawful search and seizure also evaporated as Peruvian police have the ability to search homes at will under this state of emergency. The right to freely assemble is gone.
BBC claims that environmental concerns are at the heart of protests. It’s the fear of area and groundwater contamination coupled with new changes in the plan that were made without consultation.
Interior Minister José Luís Pérez Guadalupe said:
They aren’t going to prevent the mine from going forward under any circumstances.
They can’t block a project of this dimension, which is an immense investment, the biggest in the past few years.
Protests began on Friday, September 25 and were escalated on the following Monday leading to deaths of protesters, injuries in 14 protesters and 8 injured officers. Out of the 7,000 mostly indigenous people who showed up, 21 were arrested.
In a constant historical déjà vu for Peru, the same sequence of events happened in May in the province of Islay in Arequipa, when four people, including a police officer, were killed after protests against the Tia Maria copper mine. A state of emergency was declared for 60 days. Peru deployed 4,000 military and police officers to Islay when Peruvians attempted to block the Pan-American Highway. Locals believed the Swiss-based mining project was contaminating water and sickening animals. High levels of arsenic, copper, mercury and other heavy metals were found in soil and water samples, but the company denies that.
This time on national TV, Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano said:
The national police with the backing of the armed forces will take charge of keeping public order.
President Ollanta Humala who called the 30-day state of emergency summarized the priorities of the conflict:
I think that it is important to protect the lives of people, but also public goods and private property.
Although similar to state of emergency, martial law is when the military is in complete control and all other branches of government are ignored or do not matter. In a state of emergency the government is in full control to the point of suspending rights and often uses force. Very rarely does one question whether that is necessary in a state of emergency and how often the government could declare it in order to force a plan that is repugnant or potentially dangerous to its people, without finding a better way or some type of recompense.
Photo: A handout photo released by the Observatory of Mining Conflict of Peru shows hundreds of demonstrators
Recent posts by Heather Callaghan