LIMA, Peru (AP) — Sixteen-year-old Cesar Medina was returning home from an Internet cafe, his mother says, and got caught up in a crowd of demonstrators when police and soldiers opened fire. A bullet tore into his head, killing him instantly.
The youth was among five civilians killed in this month’s outbreak of violence over Peru’s biggest mining project, and while authorities have not said who fired the deadly shots, local journalists say it was security forces.
Civilian deaths are disturbingly frequent when protesters in provincial Peru confront police, whose standard means of crowd control appear to be live ammunition, typically fired from Kalashnikov or Galil assault rifles.
Since 2006, bullets fired by Peruvian security forces to quell protests have killed 80 people and wounded more than 800, according to the independent National Coordinator for Human Rights watchdog. Human rights activists say that reflects a disregard for human life unmatched in the region and argue that the government’s routine use of deadly force against protesters could exacerbate violence.
“These numbers would be a scandal abroad. And I’m not talking about a comparison with Europe, but with Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, where there are protests but not so many deaths,” said Jorge Mansilla, investigator for Peru’s national ombudsman’s office.