* Protests escalate before June 5 presidential runoff
* More than 5,000 farmers protest near Bolivia border
LIMA May 27 Hundreds of demonstrators mobbed
government buildings and burned police cars in southeastern
Peru on Thursday as a protest against mining firms intensified
10 days before a presidential election.
Some 5,000 protesters have descended on the city of Puno
over the past two weeks to demand concessions be revoked for
mining companies they say will contaminate their lands. Roads
to neighboring Bolivia are now blocked, paralyzing commerce.
"They've started to loot public and private institutions,
banks and shopping centers," police officer William Anda said
on local radio.
President Alan Garcia earlier this week authorized the army
to help maintain order in Puno, 620 miles (1,000 km) south of
Lima, but it has yet to use force to end the protests. The
government has sent representatives to negotiate with the
protesters but an agreement has not been reached.
Garcia's government has helped line up $40 billion in
investments in mining and oil projects over the next decade.
Intent on averting a violent clash that could overshadow
the election, Garcia has said the government would not try to
stop the protests until after the June 5 presidential vote.
Polls give right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori a narrow lead
over leftist Ollanta Humala in the runoff.
Both candidates pledge to solve social conflicts over
natural resources in Peru. Analysts say protests are caused
partly because communities do not feel they have benefited from
Peru's mineral wealth and decade-long economic boom. The
conflicts frequently turn violent.
Several small precious metals miners operate near Puno as
well as Minsur (MINi.LM), Peru's largest tin miner.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino, Writing by Caroline Stauffer;
Editing by Peter Cooney)