LIMA – Two workers for metals producer Doe Run Peru were arrested Wednesday for vandalism during a protest to demand the reopening of the company’s smelter in the central Peruvian city of La Oroya and payment of back salaries.
A police spokesman told Efe that the suspects had attacked seven bus drivers and taken their keys from them to block a key highway, adding that they could be accused of theft and causing physical injury and property damage.
America Television reported that the stranded bus drivers later beat some of the demonstrators.
The protest involving hundreds of Doe Run Peru workers has been temporarily suspended until Saturday after the workers held a meeting with authorities in the central region of Junin, police operations director Abel Gamarra told Canal N Wednesday.
But a group of demonstrators who still had not received instructions from their leaders were still barring one stretch of the highway linking Lima with Peru’s central highlands and jungle, Gamarra said.
Doe Run Peru had pledged to resume operations in May, three years after the smelter was shuttered over failure to comply with requirements to mitigate lead pollution in La Oroya, one of the world’s most polluted places.
But its parent company, U.S.-based Renco Group, recently pushed back the restart date and called on the Peruvian government to assume responsibility for third-party claims filed in U.S. courts over pollution in the city.
Energy and Mines Minister Jorge Merino said Wednesday that Doe Run Peru showed it “has no will to resume operations by imposing new conditions on the government,” adding that because it is a private company the government cannot intervene.
Doe Run Peru has operated the La Oroya Metallurgical Complex since 1997 and the Cobriza mine in the Huancavelica region since 1998 and mainly produces lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold. EFE