Peru mine workers join in protests, cutting off some major highways to Lima

By Marco Aquino
·2-min read
Agricultural workers block the Panamericana Sur highway during a protest over a long-standing but controversial agrarian law, in Villacuri

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) - Workers from the Doe Run mine complex in Peru joined a growing group of farmworkers in blocking major highways throughout the Andean nation, ratcheting up pressure on newly appointed interim President Francisco Sagasti.

Hundreds of union members from the Doe Run metallurgical plant located in the Andean town of La Oroya blockaded a highway critical to the supply of food to the capital Lima, demanding the government turn over management of the mining complex.

Several governments have pledged, but failed, to revamp the liquidated mine after it was mothballed in 2009 amid spiraling debts that prevented its former owners from completing a modernization program and environmental cleanup.

"We want to be given the management of the company after the failure of the government and its liquidation committee to sell the complex to a new operator," the leader of the La Oroya workers union, Luis Castillo, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, protesting farmworkers continued to cut off transit on the main highway north and south of Lima, snarling traffic, leaving hundreds of buses and tractor trailer trucks carrying fresh fruit stranded and one protester dead as of Thursday.

Peru's Congress said it planned on Friday to debate the repeal of a long-standing agrarian promotion law that farm workers say is unjust.

President Sagasti announced that he also planned to submit to Congress a bill that would update the existing law, but not replace it altogether.

Sagasti reiterated his call for security forces to act with prudence following the death of the protester on Thursday.

"I have instructed the Minister of the Interior to take charge of police operations, which must be carried out according to constitutional and legal provisions to restore internal order and social peace," Sagasti said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)