Thousands of anti-mining protestors shut down the comercial airport in Juliaca, in southern Peru, officials told Reuters.
According to police general Herbert Rosas, about 3,000 protesters have occupied the runway and several hundred police retreated to avoid a clash similar to yesterday’s, which left at least six dead.
The protesters, largely indigenous Aymara, have come to Juliaca demanding a halt to all mining activities in the area.
Yesterday the violence spurred President Alan García to revoke the license for Canadian mining company Bear Creek, which planned to produce silver at their Santa Ana mine. García told reporters the move is an effort to “guarantee a peaceful transition and a trouble-free start to the government of Ollanta Humala."
Today García told press that “dark political interests” were behind the violent protests, which he described as an “almost paramilitary force.”
“What they seek is to pressure the next administration and [president-elect] Ollanta Humala making this warning and shows of strength,” García said.
The protests, if continued through Humala’s July 28 inauguration, would provide an immediate test to the incoming nationalist president.
Humala campaigned on social inclusion and his strongest political base is the southern highlands – in Puno, site of the current violence, he obtained 77% support. Humala recently said that natural resource investments will continue, but “with respect for indigenous rights and local populations.”
According to an April report by the ombudsman office, Peru has 159 active conflicts, 117 of which came to violence.
The CEO of Bear Creek told Reuters the company would sue the Peruvian government to recover its concession, the Santa Ana mine, which has an estimated 63.2 million ounces of silver.
The magazine Caretas has reported that illegal miners in Puno are working alongside protesters, reports Reuters.
See video footage below of the protesters encroaching the Juliaca airport. (Video: Canal N)