LIMA (Reuters) - Peru is scrutinizing paid security services that federal police provide to mining companies following a deadly protest by local residents that suspended exports from one of the world’s biggest copper mines, the government told Reuters on Monday.
The three-month-old centrist government of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is also talking with the Red Cross about setting up a program to teach police to manage protests better, Rolando Luque, director of the National Office of Dialogue in Kuczynski’s Cabinet, said in an interview.
The fatal shooting of a protester in clashes with police near MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas copper deposit earlier this month derailed talks between the government and Quechua-speaking communities upset with the company’s use of a local road. Protesters blocked all roads near the mine after the incident, disrupting exports and threatening to halt output.
The government has said the police did not have permission to crack down on protesters. Authorities are investigating the death of the man, one of several dozen Peruvians killed in clashes with police in the past decade, most in poor provinces.
Luque declined to comment on whether he thought police should continue to sign pacts that commit them to protecting mining operations in exchange for payment from companies.
The agreements have come under fire following the clash over Las Bambas, with critics arguing they create a police force loyal to miners and foster mistrust between local communities and the central government.
“It’s being looked at in the Interior Ministry and the internal debate isn’t over yet,” Luque said.
Supporters of the pacts say they ensure miners pay for public resources they use and deliver sorely needed policing to remote and lawless corners of Peru.
Las Bambas and several other global miners have signed agreements with the police.
Luque, who previously worked on conflict prevention in the state ombudsman’s office, said he planned to work closely with police to ensure they were informed about the conflicts at the heart of protests.
“Police don’t solve conflicts but they do need to understand them,” Luque said. “That’s the only way they can conduct more appropriate operations.”
Peru, a top global exporter of copper, zinc and gold, is rife with disputes over mining, oil drilling and land rights.
Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Peter Cooney