2 Killed as cops clash with protesters in Peru

Lima –  Two people were killed and 44 others injured Thursday when Peruvian police sought to clear protesters occupying a bus station in the southern city of Mollendo.

It was 5:00 a.m. when police moved against supporters of the Islay province Defense Front taking part in mobilizations against a giant mining project, an assistant director of the Peruvian national ombud’s office told Efe.

A 50-year-old man died in the confrontation along with a 31-year-old man who suffered a fractured skull and later died of the injury, Rolando Luque said, adding that four of the 44 people injured were in serious condition.

The injured include both police and civilians.

Another person was fatally shot Monday amid the disturbances.

Thursday’s clash came on the 16th day of a general strike in Islay aimed at derailing the Tia Maria copper mine and less than 72 hours ahead of Peru’s presidential and congressional elections.

Luque said he was angry about the “surprise” police operation, suggesting that it wrecked the negotiations the ombud’s office initiated Wednesday with the Islay Defense Front.

Peru’s interior minister, Miguel Hidalgo, told Frecuencia Latina television that police acted to clear a key road and ensure freedom of movement.

“If there is still a violent attitude, we, in coordination with (local) authorities, will protect the rights of those who need to travel on that highway,” he said, adding that Peru needs “calm” for Sunday’s elections.

Some 3,000 protesters in Mollendo continued to battle police as of midday Thursday, according to Luque.

He said the city’s hospital could no longer cope with the number of wounded and that he had formally asked the central government to send help.

The Arequipa regional government agreed this week to temporarily suspend the Tia Maria copper mine project pending an outcome to talks between national authorities and the Islay Defense Front.

Islay residents have spent months trying to block the Southern Copper Corporation’s $949 million Tia Maria project, which they say will divert water from agriculture.

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