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31 August 1999

Regional Strike Against Canadian Mining Companies

Peruvian army troops with automatic weapons took control of Huaraz, capital of Ancash department, on Aug. 20 as residents shut down the city on the second day of a nearly total 48-hour civic strike.

Huaraz mayor Waldo Rios Salcedo said the regional strike was supported by 27 provincial and district mayors in Ancash department, and by 132 campesino organizations. The strike was called to protest the activities of two Canadian mining companies, "whose gold production at the Pierina mine is valued at $50 billion, while the surrounding areas get no benefit at all," according to Rios.

The Canadian companies Barrick-Misquichilca and Antamina are under fire for not paying adequate taxes to benefit the region; for failing to hire local people -- only five of the total 870 workers on the companies' payroll are from Huaraz; and for using cyanide in their production process.

Municipal offices, schools and commercial establishments were closed during the two-day strike; only a few pharmacies and street vendors were open for business. There was no public transport. Footage aired on a privately owned cable television station showed soldiers guarding bridges, gas stations, public buildings and plazas, and patrolling the city in private vehicles.

On Aug. 19, after a demonstration in the main plaza of Huaraz where mayor Rios blasted the mining companies, groups of protesters blocked streets with stones, burned tires and knocked down signs around the city. The office of the Ancash Prefecture said in a communique that the army presence in Huaraz was necessary "in the face of the abuses committed by groups headed by mayor Waldo Rios, which caused damages to property." Police said the disturbances left five people injured and 10 arrested.

Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY