Indigenous in Peru Battle Copper Mining Interests

Church leaders in Peru called for dialogue and expressed concern about the detention of two human rights workers in the southern Andes Mountains during violent protests over a copper mine. Two people have been killed and dozens, including police officers, have been injured in demonstrations against the Tintaya Mine, owned by Xstrata, a Swiss company. On May 28, the government imposed a 30-day state of emergency after the protest, which began the week before, turned violent on May 27. The mine, which local residents say pollutes water and soil in the area, is located in the Territorial Prelature of Sicuani, a church jurisdiction where most of the inhabitants are Quechua farmers. Environmental monitoring coordinated by the prelature has found high levels of metals in water and soil samples. The church workers were detained on May 28 after two lawyers from the prelature's human rights office persuaded demonstrators to free a government prosecutor who was investigating the protests. According to local reports, the lawyers accompanied the prosecutor to the mining camp, where some protesters were being held in a police station. While the two lawyers went inside with the prosecutor, their driver and another prelature employee were detained. Police later claimed that they had found ammunition in the vehicle. The detained workers were released on May 30, according to government reports. In a statement on May 29, U.S.-born Bishop Miguel La Fay Bardi of Sicuani and other prelature officials "categorically rejected" the accusation that ammunition had been found in the vehicle.

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