"9 Hostage Officers Killed at Peruvian Oil Facility
Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the officers were killed in the events surrounding a push to retake a pumping station belonging to Petroperú, the national oil company, in the northern Bagua Province, where indigenous protesters had kidnapped 38 police officers. Twenty-two of the abducted officers were freed, but seven were still missing, officials said.
The killings came amid reports by indigenous groups that security forces killed as many as 25 protesters Friday in clashes at a different location in Bagua, where Indians had blocked a highway. Mr. Simon confirmed that at least 9 Indians had been killed and 155 wounded, and that a total of 22 police officers had been killed, intensifying the most acute crisis faced by President Alan García since he took office in 2006.
The bloodshed comes after two months of slow-burning protests, which spread from rain forests in Peru’s north to the country’s south, and have focused on interrupting petroleum production and transportation. In an increasingly well-coordinated movement, the lowland Indians are demanding that Mr. García withdraw decrees that ease the way for companies to carry out major energy and logging projects in the Peruvian Amazon.
After the operation at the Petroperú facility, officials said they were planning to re-establish the supply of oil to remote provinces that had been hit with fuel shortages and blackouts. Still, it was unclear how successful they would be when protesters were still blocking routes on important highways and rivers.
Officials also said Saturday that they were seeking to enforce an arrest warrant on charges of sedition for Alberto Pizango, a Shawi Indian and the leader of Aidesep, an umbrella organization of indigenous groups that had organized many of the protests. But Mr. Pizango apparently went into hiding and was replaced by another leader, Champion Nonimgo.
“Our protests will go on until our demands are met,” Mr. Nonimgo said.
A maneuver here in Congress sparked the clashes between protesters and the police, after lawmakers blocked an effort Thursday to allow debate on one of Mr. García’s most polemical decrees, which would open as much as 60 percent of Peru’s jungles to oil exploration and other extractive investments.
Ollanta Humala, a nationalist political leader and a former lieutenant colonel in Peru’s army who was defeated by Mr. García in the most recent presidential elections, has sided with the protesters, lambasting the use of use of force against the Indians and raising his profile ahead of the next elections in 2011.
Meanwhile, the climbing body count in the rain forest, along with unconfirmed reports that the number of Indians killed could be higher, threatens to deplete the legitimacy of Mr. García’s government. Mr. García, 60, is still hounded by claims of human rights violations from his first term as president in the 1980s, when soldiers suppressed a prison rebellion in 1986, killing more than 100 inmates suspected of being Maoist guerrillas."