Peruvian President Alan Garcia labored on Saturday to contain Peru’s worst political violence in years as nine more police officers were killed in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians fighting his efforts to exploit oil, gas and other resources on their native lands.
The new deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed — seven with spears — since security forces moved early on Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters.
Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm only nine civilian deaths, but cabinet chief Yehude Simon told reporters that 155 people had been injured, about a third of them with bullet wounds.
He announced a 3pm to 6am curfew, which took effect immediately in this sweltering jungle region where Simon said authorities had made 72 arrests.
In a statement on Saturday, Garcia defended the crackdown as an attack on “subversive anti-democratic aggression” that had blocked the flow of oil and gas from the Amazon and prevented food, medicine and gasoline from getting in.
The political violence is the Andean country’s worst since the Shining Path insurgency was quelled more than a decade ago and bodes ill for Garcia’s ambitious plans to boost Peru’s oil, gas and mineral output and spur logging and biofuel development. Garcia compared the “savage and barbaric methods” used to kill police “who had surrendered and been disarmed” with those employed by the Shining Path.
The violence began before dawn Friday when security forces moved to break up a roadblock protesters mounted in early April. About 1,000 protesters seized police during the melee, taking more than three dozen hostage, officials said.
Twenty-five officers were rescued in Saturday’s storming of Station No. 6 at state-owned Petroperu in Imacita here in the jungle state of Amazonas, authorities said, with two officers missing.
Simon said the nine killed were taken more than a mile from the station and slain while an army general was negotiating protesters’ retreat from the facility.
Among at least 45 people being treated at the main hospital in the Amazonas town of Bagua was local Indian leader Santiago Manuin, who received eight bullet wounds on Friday, a nurse said.
Also on Saturday, a judge ordered the arrest of protest group leader Alberto Pizango on sedition charges for allegedly inciting the violence, said Javier Villa Stein, the president of the Peruvian supreme court.
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