Tuesday, April 6

Near Arequipa: Police/Miners Clash Leaves 6 Dead

Six dead. 29 injured. Dozens detained. Thousands more stranded on the highway for two nights.

Halfway between Lima and Arequipa on the Panamerican highway, more than 5,000 informal miners blocked the highway on Sunday, impeding the thousands of passengers heading home for work on Monday after Holy Week. 

Protesters reject the government's new laws protecting the environment against damage caused by informal mining. But the clash had a violent outburst. First on Sunday, Peru's RPP radio was reporting rumors of thirteen deaths. Six deaths have now been confirmed by authorities and witnesses. 

Thousands of Peruvian wildcat miners were locked in a tense standoff with police on Monday after six people were killed during a protest against stricter environmental controls imposed by the government.

The violence broke out near the town of Chala, 372 miles south of the capital Lima, on Sunday when police tried to clear a roadblock set by the miners on the Panamerican Highway leading to Chile.

Two of the dead were bystanders, including a taxi driver struck by a stray bullet and a woman who suffered a heart attack. Police said 20 protesters and nine officers were injured in the country's latest conflict over natural resources.

Congressional delegation met with strike leaders today, but didn't arrive at any agreement. Peru's President Alan Garcia also responded to the protests, saying that his policy toward informal mining would not be changing. He pointed to the polluted rivers of the jungle province Madre de Dios as his defense. 

America TV's Cuarto Poder filmed the following from Chala, including eyewitness accounts of the shootings:

Today, traffic in Arequipa's downtown was shut down all day by widespread protests denouncing the violence against the miners. 

And as for our side of the story, Sergio's brother just arrived back in Arequipa after 48 hours stuck on the Panamericana. Protesters had blocked the national highway from here to Lima. They'll have to fly to Lima and then take an overnight bus to Huaraz tomorrow morning, arriving to work two days late. 

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