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Anti-Mining Protests Escalate in Peru; Four Killed in Police Violence

Protests continue despite 'state of emergency', ban on freedom of assembly

Common Dreams staff

Peru’s government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, banning protests and freedom of assembly in the country, following public opposition to a planned restart of the nation's largest gold mining project.

At least four protesters have been killed and twenty-one injured due to police violence in two days of demonstrations, Reuters reports.

Marco Arana, a former Roman Catholic priest and leading organizer, was also arrested on Wednesday in Cajamarca, one of three provinces where the state of emergency was declared. A video broadcast by a local TV channel showed riot police scooping him off a bench in the city's central square and taking him away in a chokehold:

Subsequent to his release, according to the Associated Press, Arana wrote on Twitter: "They detained me and beat me a lot, inside the police station they beat me again - punches in the face, the kidneys and insults."

Human rights groups called Arana's detention part of a harsh crackdown by President Ollanta Humala. It is the third time he has declared state emergencies and suspended civil liberties in the country since taking office a year ago.

The proposed $4.8bn Conga gold mining project was suspended last year due to similar protests, but US-based Newmont Mining Co. is now set to restart the project following approval by Humala last week.

Opponents of the project claim the mining will contaminate local water supplies as the large-scale operation requires transferring water from lagoons in the Andes mountains to company built reservoirs.

Protesters accuse Humala of reneging on a campaign promise to prioritize access to clean water over foreign-run mining projects.

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