- - Monday, December 5, 2011

PERU

Emergency declared over mine protests

LIMA — President Ollanta Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency Sunday to quell increasingly violent protests over the country’s biggest investment, a highlands gold mine, by peasants who fear it will damage their water supply.

The emergency restricts civil liberties such as the right to assembly and allows arrests without warrants in four provinces of Cajamarca state that have been paralyzed for 11 days by protests against the $4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mining project. U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corp. is the project’s majority owner.

Dozens have been injured in clashes between police and protesters, some of whom have vandalized Conga property. The general strike also shuttered schools and snarled transportation as protesters mounted roadblocks.

Mr. Humala said in a brief televised address Sunday night that protest leaders had shown no interest “in reaching minimal agreements to permit a return of social peace” after a day of talks in Cajamarca with Cabinet chief Salmon Lerner, who had been accompanied by military and police chiefs and was guarded by hundreds of heavily armed police.

Mr. Humala said the government “has exhausted all paths to establish dialogue as a point of departure to resolve the conflict democratically.”

The emergency took effect at midnight Sunday.

Cajamarca state’s governor, Gregorio Santos, who has been leading the protests, called Humala’s announcement an unnecessary provocation.

He said protest leaders had been planning to end the strike and asked government officials for 12 hours to consult with protesters.

BRAZIL

Labor minister steps down amid corruption scandal

BRASILIA — Brazilian Labor Minister Carlos Lupi on Sunday presented his resignation to President Dilma Rousseff, becoming the sixth member of her government to step down amid corruption accusations.

“Given the political and personal persecution by the media with which I have had to deal for the past several months, and considering the release of the Ethics Committee findings, … I decided to submit my resignation irrevocably,” Mr. Lupi said in a statement.

The presidential ethics committee recommended last week that Mr. Lupi resign.

“I depart with my conscience at ease, with my personal honesty intact, knowing that the truth will always win out,” Mr. Lupi said in a statement.

Accusations against Mr. Lupi - who has been labor minister since 2007 - include flying in an airplane belonging to a group that later obtained government contracts with his ministry.

Mrs. Rousseff was compelled to launch an anti-corruption drive in July after several key members of her government were accused of corruption. They included her chief of staff, Antonio Palocci, who was forced to resign in June. Agriculture Minister Wagner Rossi, Transport Minister Alfredo Nascimento and Tourism Minister Pedro Novais also were forced to step down amid accusations of graft and embezzlement.

Communist lawmaker Aldo Rebelo was named Brazil’s new sports minister in October, taking on the task of organizing the 2014 World Cup after his predecessor, Orlando Silva, resigned amid corruption accusations.

VENEZUELA

Haitian leader hails key source of quake aid

CARACAS — Haitian President Michel Martelly says aid and fuel shipments from Venezuela are having a big impact in the Caribbean country as it attempts to recover from the devastation of its January 2010 earthquake.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government is providing nearly all the fuel that Haiti consumes under preferential terms, including long-term loans and direct shipping that cuts costs.

Mr. Martelly said power plants installed by Venezuela after the earthquake supply roughly one-fifth of Haiti’s electricity and that Venezuela also is providing key financial support for rice farming and other programs.

“The cooperation with Venezuela is the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact,” Mr. Martelly told the Associated Press in an interview Saturday night after a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

“We are grateful to President Chavez for helping us from the bottom of his heart,” Mr. Martelly said.

Mr. Chavez has made helping Haiti a priority since it was struck by the magnitude-7 earthquake, reducing much of Port-au-Prince to rubble.

His government sent thousands of tons of food aid in the aftermath of the quake, and set up several camps to temporarily house thousands of displaced Haitians.

Well before the quake, Haiti already had been a major beneficiary of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program, which supplies fuel to Caribbean and Central American countries and allows them to pay part of the bill in goods such as rice and beans rather than cash.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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