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  • The Indigenous communities blocked roads in order to prevent shipments from a large copper mine run by the Chinese miner.

    The Indigenous communities blocked roads in order to prevent shipments from a large copper mine run by the Chinese miner. | Photo: EFE

Published 4 April 2019

Tensions between the Indigenous Quechua people in the region and MMG will be heightened by the ruling against the attorneys.

Three Peruvian lawyers, who were representing Indigenous communities in the southern copper belt region of the South American country, have been sentenced to three years in prison for protesting Chinese mining company MMG Ltd.

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The Indigenous communities blocked roads in order to prevent shipments from a large copper mine run by the Chinese miner. Tensions between the Indigenous Quechua people in the region and MMG will be heightened by the ruling against the attorneys.

A state of emergency has been declared in the district of Challhuahuacho, which bans public gatherings and gives authorities permission to home searches. The continuation of the roadblocks violates the current state of emergency, according to police.

President Martin Vizcarra has expressed the government's desire for a peaceful resolution, although it is yet to be confirmed whether or not the police will remove the protesters by force.

The restriction of access on two of the roads leading to Las Bambas mine has been significantly interrupting the miner's exports. While MMG has expressed that it is open to dialogue, the local communities have stated that they would not engage in dialogue regarding removing the barricades until the lawyers have been freed.

The chosen method of negotiation has been denounced by prosecutor Jorge Chavez Cortina, who says that "they can ask for whatever they want, but we have to act according to the law." The lawyer also says the sentencing was not a result of defiance against the community, but "against crime."

According to the prosecution, the lawyers attempted to extort MMG by influencing the villagers to stage the roadblock. The detained, Carlos Vargas and brothers Jorge and Frank Chavez, are being held in custody due to suspicion of flight risk. The three men are being represented by attorney Kevin Peña, who has denounced the prosecution for violating their due process.

Despite the prosecution's claims, the Fuerabamba natives insist that they were not influenced or manipulated in any way. Instead, the group has said the lawyers were assisting them to receive proper compensation from MMG for cutting through their farmland to transport the copper products.

The hearing, which was held in Peru's capital of Cusco, lasted three days. The three-year sentences are pre-trial detentions, which the prosecution requested in order to put together all the charges against the lawyers.

The Indigenous community says the roadblocks would remain as long as the lawyers are in prison. Villager Edison Vargas explained that the protestors plan to "keep up the struggle for 36 months."


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