Peru’s government is considering an early end to martial law implemented last month in Arequipa amid violent protests against the Tia Maria copper project.
President Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in Arequipa’s Islay province on May 22 after indefinite protests which paralyzed the region for two months resulted in a fourth death, including a police officer.
The state of emergency which suspended constitutional rights has allowed the police and military to restore order in the Tambo valley where opposition to Southern Copper’s $1.4 billion copper mine project was fiercest. Officials worried the protests would resume after the end of the 60-day state of emergency.
However mining and energy minister Rosa Ortiz told Canal N’s Agenda Politica on Sunday that the government was considering a progressive lifting of martial law before the legal expiration.
“I think the population is calm and we probably need to evaluate the idea of lifting the state of emergency. Depending on the people, we’ll decide whether to withdraw the military,” mining and energy minister Rosa Ortiz said on Agenda Politica. “I hope that before the end of the year we’ll have this project under way.”
Ortiz added that Southern Copper had begun a “community awareness” program with residents of the Tambo valley where the company plans to build a mine expected to produce 120,000 tons of copper per year for 20 years.
Ortiz’s comments indicate increasing confidence from Peru’s government that the Tia Maria copper project will be realized during Humala’s term. Prosecutors have jailed a key protest leader for extortion and fined two others, one of whom was removed from his public office. The national comptroller has frozen municipal bank accounts in Islay province because public resources were allegedly used to finance the protests.
The government seems to be betting that casting public doubt on a sidelined leadership’s integrity as well as cutting off financing will prevent any future protests after the state of emergency from being as disruptive and violent as seen in April and May.