Seven police were wounded in fresh clashes with local residents protesting Southern Copper’s Tia Maria mine project in the Peruvian province of Islay, part of the southern region of Arequipa.
National Police Gen. Enrique Blanco told Radio Programas del Peru that slingshot-fired rocks struck the police Tuesday in Cocachacra, where earlier that morning officers took down barricades blocking the entrance to the town, the epicenter of anti-mining protests that have left three dead and more than 200 injured.
He said four of the officers were taken by helicopter to a hospital in the regional capital of Arequipa, whose inhabitants launched a 72-hour protest action Tuesday in support of the 52-day-old “indefinite strike” in Islay.
In Lima, Peru’s government suspended talks with Southern Copper, a unit of Mexican mining giant Grupo Mexico, due to suspicion of possible secret negotiations between the mining company and protest organizers aimed at lifting the strike in exchange for monetary compensation.
The national government also froze the bank accounts of municipalities opposed to the project to prevent them from bankrolling the protests.
Energy and Mines Minister Rosa Maria Ortiz has demanded that Grupo Mexico Chairman and CEO German Larrea clarify responsibilities for a telephone conversation – aired last Thursday by the channel Willax TV – in which a protest leader, Pepe Julio Gutierrez, appears to ask a lawyer working for Southern Copper for a bribe in exchange for ending the demonstrations.
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