Hostages freed in Peru
June 18, 2008 by babs22
Willing to obtain a greater share of mining profits, Peruvian protesters have released 48 police officers, seized on Monday during a week-long blockade of a town south of the capital.
In Moquegua, 1 200 km south of Lima, the capital, there were clashes between up to 20 000 protesters and authorities. That’s when the officers were taken hostage.
“All police have been freed who were illegally taken hostage”, said Jorge del Castillo, chief of staff for Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president.
The men found refuge in the Catholic Church and were released unharmed. Now they are flying to Lima. Alberto Jordan, the chief of police in southern Peru was among those being held by protestors. Earlier he was shown on national television, surrounded by a crowd, waving a white flag and apologising to the people.
In the region, residents want to redistribute taxes paid by the region’s Southern Copper Corporation, the country’s largest copper producer.
On Monday, clashes erupted after the police, though armed with tear gas, was vastly outnumbered, overpowered and seized by club-wielding protesters as they attempted to break the blockade of a bridge.
The officers were charged by the crowd and disarmed. Then the protesters marched their hostages to the city’ cathedral, where they were held.
Food and fuel by sea
In the past week, roads, including Peru’s main highway to Chile, have been occupied and access to a mine and smelter belonging to Southern Copper severed, by residents of Moquegua.
Also, road links to Tacna, Peru’s southernmost province, has been cut by the blockade, forcing the government to send food and fuel by sea to replenish supplies.
According to analysts, as Peru is a leading global exporter of minerals, it could see other regions holding protests, in order to reap what they see as their fair share of mining taxes.
Because residents accuse large mining companies of reaping large profits, while polluting the environment and offering little benefit to locals, social unrest is common in Peru’s mining regions.
Talks with local leaders had been suspended by the government until the hostages were freed. Negotiations will resume now.
Peru’s economy is powered by mining, wich puts president Alan Garcia under pressure to deliver the benefits of the growth to the poor. The longer he delays his decision, the more prostests like this will keep on blocking Peru.