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A dark day in Cajamarca: three protesters dead and movement leader detained arbitrarily by police

Here in the Lima office, we are troubled by two days of violence and arbitrary force reportedly unleashed by the Peruvian police and army against civilians protesting the Conga mine project in Cajamarca.

The contested Conga project, financed by US-based company Newmont, has drawn a renewed wave of popular protest in recent weeks after Peruvian President Humala affirmed that he will give the project the “green light.”

This is despite widespread objection to the proposed gold mine that would require moving four pristine lagoons now serving as water sources for residents throughout the Cajamarca region.

Although the protests have been largely peaceful over the past few weeks, things turned unexpectedly violent yesterday when police reportedly clashed with protesters in Celendin, Cajamarca. Three civilians are reported dead, and many more, injured.

According to local news sources, last night protesters filled the Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca in a silent vigil for the three civilians who were killed, only to be met by a wall of police who fired tear gas into the crowd. The protesters reportedly had to flee into a nearby church for safety. President Humala, in turn, extended the “state of emergency” until July 26 in the zones surrounding the Conga project.

For the people of Cajamarca, the “state of emergency” has come to be associated with criminalization of protest; a suggestion that found support only hours ago when Father Marco Arana, one of the most prominent leaders of the movement against the Conga project was reportedly interrupted during a silent vigil and forcefully detained by the police. As of now, it is not known what charges, if any, have been brought against Arana. But it is reported that he is being denied access to his lawyer.

Arana's detention was caught on video: