Hundreds of people had converged on the mine from communities scattered across the region. Some had walked for several days to reach the site. Once there, they say, they were attacked by the mine’s security guards and by contingents of the Peruvian federal police firing teargas.
Two protesters were shot in their legs, one man lost an eye to gunshot wounds and a farmer called Melanio Garcia, 41, suffered a fatal gunshot. Photographs allegedly taken by a Monterrico supervisor, which the protesters say support their allegations of abuse by the police, show Garcia lying on the ground, apparently alive but badly injured. Several other pictures taken 30 hours later, according to their time and date stamps, clearly show Garcia to be dead.
The protesters – who have launched a multimillion-pound claim for damages at the high court in London – claim Garcia was left to bleed to death at the mine site. Monterrico says Garcia was shot some distance from the mine and it vigorously denies that any of its officers or employees were in any way involved with the alleged abuses at Rio Blanco.
Richard Meeran, of Leigh Day, the London law firm bringing the high court case, said the evidence of torture was incontrovertible and that it was inconceivable the company could have been unaware of what was happening on its site.
One of the former mine employees said in his statement that before the protest began the manager of the mine’s security force gave orders to the police “pointing out strategic points of the operation on a map, for instance, geographical points, the rotation of the police personnel and the dangers they could encounter in each area. He also explained that they had to report every 10 to 15 minutes via the Motorola radio to the management of the mining company.”
When the protesters arrived, he added: “The police shot teargas immediately. I saw the community members who wanted to talk but this was immediately denied and they were teargassed. After this clash the community members, who were about 500 or 600, retreated and stopped at about 15 metres from the police. It could be observed that among the protesters there were some children, young ladies, and elderly people. The community members raised the national flag, and sang the national anthem.”
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