Peru police clash with wildcat miners, one dead
LIMA, March 1 (Reuters) – A clash between Peruvian police and wildcat gold miners resulted in the death of one miner and the wounding of 14 others on Tuesday at a protest against the army’s seizure of illegal dredges in the Amazon basin, a witness said.
It was the latest violent conflict over natural resources to flare up during President Alan Garcia’s term in Peru, a leading global gold exporter. Persistent social conflicts have become a central issue in Peru’s April presidential election, when Garcia cannot run for a second term.
Juan Rojas, a local radio journalist in Madre de Dios, a remote region where the clash occurred, said some of the wounded suffered bullet wounds. Local media also reported one death and about 10 wounded. A leader of the miners said four people were killed but this could not be independently verified. Police provided no comment.
Peru is the world’s No. 6 gold producer and about 10 percent of its gold comes from Madre de Dios. Around 10,000 people in the region are thought to earn a living from illegal mining.
Earlier this month, Peru’s armed forces launched an unprecedented campaign to halt illegal mining in the area, near Peru’s border with Brazil and Bolivia.
About 1,000 police and infantrymen are taking part in an operation to destroy wildcat mining equipment.
Social conflict over natural resources is already a central theme in the presidential race as a third of Peruvians live in poverty and many have been left out of a commodities boom that fueled a past decade of strong economic growth.
Six people were killed in April 2010 when police clashed with wildcat miners, and days later farmers blocked roads to halt a mine planned by a company with Mexican roots.
Thirty people died in a violent conflict over proposed oil drilling on indigenous lands in June 2009, which prompted Garcia to fire his entire cabinet.