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  • Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against Tia Maria mine in Arequipa, Peru July 22, 2019.

    Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against Tia Maria mine in Arequipa, Peru July 22, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 August 2019
Opinion

The deployment of military forces to Arequipa has increased the risk of a potential conflict with the local population.

Congressmen from Peru's leftist party Frente Amplio (FA) Thursday criticized President Martin Vizcarra for deploying the Latin American nation´s military to Arequipa to contain the population's protests against the Tia Maria mining project.

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“President Vizcarra will be responsible for what happens with the Tia Maria population, who wants life, water, health and respect for their rights. We hold him responsible for any act that threatens the tranquility and life of the Arequipa inhabitants who defend just causes,” lawmaker Hernando Cevallos said, adding that his party will propose the interpellation of Interior Minister Carlos Moran.

Congressman Marco Arana also requested the interpellation of the Energy and Mines Ministrer Francisco Ismodes, who provided evidence for the inappropriate handling of the indefinite strike which thousands of Arequipans are supporting.

"Not only do we request the interpellation of the Energy and Mines Minister, we are also thinking of presenting a motion against the Interior Minister due to the questioned intervention of the National Police," Arana stated.

At the Arequipa department, the population blocked the main roads and a train track on July 18. They began to protest against a license granted to Tia Maria mine, a US$1.4 billion mining project which Southern Copper Corporation intends to develop despite environmental risks and social unrest.

"In Spain, the Grupo Mexico, owner of the Southern Peru copper mine, is investigated for corruption. In Peru, Southern, which also faces legal proceedings for pollution, is promoted by the Vizcarra administration."

Since then, the demonstrations have prevented the export of minerals from the four most important mines in southern Peru: Las Bambas, Cerro Verde, Antapaccay and Constancia.

In 2018, these Andean mines sent about 1.2 million tons of copper to Asia and Europe, making Peru the second largest global supplier of this metal.

On July 4, President Vizcarra ordered the intervention of the Army to "maintain order" in Matarani, a port city in the Arequipa department. The next day, however, the Federation of Workers of Arequipa joined demonstrations of what has become a regional indefinite strike which began at the Tambo Valley but is spreading to ​​​​​​​other territories. 

The Peruvian government's inability to respond to the people's demands has triggered growing ungovernability, a situation which pushed President Vizcarra, who came to power 16 months ago, to call early elections for 2020.

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