PUNO, Peru — Hundreds of Aymara Indian activists in Peru’s southeastern Puno region have blocked the main highway with neighboring Bolivia to protest mining operations in the region, police said Friday.
The activists resumed protests that began weeks ago, but were temporarily halted on May 31 to allow for voting on June 5 in Peru’s presidential run-off election.
Activists blocked the highway to Bolivia some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the border town of Desaguadero, Puno police official Jose Oquendo told AFP.
“Vehicle transit is totally closed, we only have pedestrian traffic on the bridge linking Peru and Bolivia,” Oquendo said.
For three weeks in May the protesters blocked vehicle traffic between Peru and Bolivia, and then cut off all access to the city of Puno, population 120,000, for a week. The city is a popular tourist site on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, and hundreds of foreign tourists were unable to leave the city.
The protest began as a demand to revoke a silver mining concession granted to Canada-based Bear Creek Mining Corporation, fearing it will pollute the water and leave few local benefits.
The protests expanded to include opposition to other area mines, and now include opposition to the Inambari project, an ambitious plan to damn several Andean rivers and build what would become one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in South America.
Oquendo said that 300 police officers had been sent to Desaguadero to make sure the border crossing was not completely cut off.
The activists on Wednesday also blocked a highway connecting the high Andean region to Brazil, Oquendo said.