Peru mayor jailed pending protest investigation

AP News
Posted: Jun 02, 2012 8:22 PM
Peru mayor jailed pending protest investigation

A Peruvian judge on Saturday ordered five months of preventive detention for a regional mayor who allegedly led last week's violent protests against a highlands copper mine.

Judge Miguel Diaz, in the coastal city of Ica, ordered Mayor Oscar Mollohuanca of Espinar held while he is investigated on charges that he committed offenses against public order. Mollohuanca told reporters after the hearing that he considered himself a political victim of mining interests.

Arrested Wednesday, he was flown by helicopter on Friday to Ica from Cuzco, the capital of the highlands state that includes Espinar.

The government suspended civil liberties in Espinar for 30 days after two protesters were killed and dozens of police injured Monday outside the Tintaya mine, which is owned by Switzerland-based Xstrata.

Xstrata denies claims by peasants living near Tintaya that the mine it is poisoning livestock and endangering water.

Peru's Supreme Court said in a statement that Diaz decided to order Mollohuanca jailed after determining that "it was he who called on the people to enter the installations of the mining camp of the company Xstrata Tintaya."

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The ruling angered some Peruvians, including congressman Ruben Coa of President Ollanta Humala's own party.

"It's an exaggeration by the judiciary, and a misstep by the executive," said Coa, who is from Espinar. "They jail him and now there won't be anyone to negotiate with as the mayor is the authority in the region."

Peru is the world's No. 2 copper producer and earns more than 60 percent of its export income from mining.