Protesters release police hostages in Peru

June 18th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Lima, June 18 (IANS) Some 50 police officers being held hostage inside a Catholic church in the southern Peruvian city of Moquegua by protesting residents have been released, EFE news reported Wednesday. The residents, who have been protesting for the last eight days demanding a bigger share of mining revenue, released the police personnel late Tuesday following an appeal by a group of mayors from Moquegua province.

The policemen led by General Alberto Jordan were transferred to the Moquegua airport soon after their release.

The policemen were held hostage by thousands of residents Monday while they were trying to disperse the demonstrators who had cut the Panamericana Highway, Peru’s main north-south route.

Speaking to reporters after thier release, Jordan said he and his men were on the verge of being hanged by some enraged demonstrators following Monday’s confrontation.

The general also said that before their release he was forced to display a white flag and seek a public apology for the police intervention during the locals’ demonstration.

Cabinet chief Jorge del Castillo also confirmed that “all the policemen who were being illegally held were released” and announced that the resumption of the negotiations with the Moquegua authorities had been accepted.

“We will seek the best solution possible,” he said.

The road-blocking protest began June 9 and resulted in food and fuel shortages in southern Peru.

Residents of Moquegua, backed by regional officials, declared a general strike last week after a breakdown in negotiations with Del Castillo on the Moqueguans’ demand for a larger share of the taxes and royalties paid by a big copper operation with a presence in both Moquegua and neighboring Tacna.

President Alan Garcia said Sunday that he had told the relevant authorities to reach a solution to the conflict between Moquegua and Tacna.

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