Peru security forces kill one, wound 22 in clash with anti-oil exploration protesters

IndustriesAssociated Press

Angry protesters pelted a police headquarters with rocks on Wednesday after security forces fired on locals protesting oil exploration in the Peruvian Amazon. At least one person was killed by gunfire and 22 wounded, hospital officials said.

Protesters were repelled Tuesday night after entering part of a military base used by the Argentina company Pluspetrol in the Junin state town of Pichanaki, said police Lt. Edwin Rojas.

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He said it wasn't known who fired on the crowd. Authorities said several elite police units were on the scene.

The Interior Ministry said about 500 people "violently entered" an area where explosives, machinery and tents were stored and that police turned them back with tear gas.

The ministry said "no military personnel participated in the events."

A 25-year-old protester was killed by a gunshot to the abdomen and another 22 people were wounded by what appeared to be shotgun pellets, said Pichanaki hospital official Jose Huicho.

Huicho said another 16 civilians and two police officers were treated for other injuries. He said one police officer had his lip sewn after a blow to the face.

The Defense Ministry said two tents were destroyed and a water pump and some wood stolen from terrain the army had "temporarily ceded" to Pluspetrol. The company said Pluspetrol stores equipment on the base that it uses for seismic testing.

On Wednesday, about 2,000 protesters surrounded police headquarters in Pichanaki, some throwing rocks, Rojas said. The central government dispatched an emergency commission from Lima.

The locals are demanding that Pluspetrol abandon oil and natural gas exploration it began in 2012 on a lot of 1.2 million hectares (4,600 square miles) where it purchased a concession.

Their fears of contamination owe to Peru's lax environmental enforcement, including relatively low fines for transgressors and a recently passed law weakening the regulatory agency.

In another protest against Pluspetrol, indigenous peoples in the northern jungle state of Loreto have been occupying drilling sites since mid-January in Pastaza at Peru's biggest drilling site.

They are demanding compensation for contamination that dates back as much as four decades.

In 2012 and 2013, environmental authorities fined Pluspetrol a total of $17.2 million for the Pastaza contamination.

Pluspetrol has been operating in Peru since 2001.

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.