May 18, 2013
Peru protesters shut airport after deadly clash
Thousands of protesters opposed to mining and energy projects in southern Peru took over a commercial airport, officials said, as the government struggled to restore calm a day after five died in a clash with police.
Herbert Rosas, a police general, told the press some 3,000 protesters had occupied the runway at the Juliaca airport in the region of Puno and that several hundred police officers retreated to avoid another clash.
Departing President Alan García, whose tenure has been marred by conflicts over natural resources that have killed nearly 100 people over the past three years, said the mostly indigenous protesters were making a show of force to get a slice of power in the government of President-elect Ollanta Humala, who takes office on July 28.
"There are dark political interests here that are demanding power," Garcia told reporters. "What they are trying to do is pressure the next government of Ollanta Humala by issuing threats and forcefully demonstrating," Garcia said without providing further details.
Humala, a leftist former army officer, campaigned on promises to end bitter conflicts that pit poor towns against mining and oil companies. Humala has promised to govern as a moderate, but his traditional support base is in Peru's poor southern provinces.
Protesters often mobilize to protect scarce water supplies, what they see as ancestral lands, or complain about potential pollution from new mines.
Often times they also demand direct economic benefits from mining and oil projects, which have helped turn the Andean nation's economy into one of the world's fastest-growing but left behind a third of its people in poverty.