Peru: Mayor of Espinar Arrested Amid Mining Conflict

Amid a heavy police deployment, the mayor of the province of Espinar, Óscar Mollohuanca, was arrested on May 30 about midday. The mayor had been in hiding after a state of emergency was declared in the area because of the conflict between the community of Espinar and the mining operation Xstrata Tintaya, and especially after learning there was an arrest warrant out for him. Even so, he granted a press interview at the town hall and it was then that the police arrested him.

Following is the video of the exact moment when the mayor is arrested, as reported by Channel N:

At this moment, the whereabouts of the mayor is unknown, although he is presumed to be within a few blocks of the Town Hall. The details of the arrest warrant are not known, though recent statements by the Prime Minister indicate that the recent violence in Espinar, such as the deaths and injuries, the attacks on private property and on law enforcement, and the kidnapping of a prosecutor, warrant a thorough investigation and assignment of responsibility, making it clear that the mayor's arrest is within the purview of the judiciary.

Here are some of the reactions that appeared in the local Twittersphere. [translator's note: all Twitter links are in Spanish] A couple of the first accounts on Twitter were by the journalists Álvaro Sosa (@AlvaroSosaC) and David Hurtado (@DavidHurtadoT):

Policía irrumpe violentamente, rompiendo lunas, en sede de municipalidad de Espinar para arrestar a alcalde Mollohuanca informa Canal N.”

The police burst in violently, breaking windows, in the government seat of Espinar, to arrest Mayor Mollohuanca, reports Channel N.”

Policia arrestó a alcalde de Espinar En Vivo …gol Canal N

The police arrest of the mayor of Espinar live–score Channel N

The politician and ex-Minister Juan Sheput (@JuanSheput) identified with the people of Espinar:

¡Oscar libertad! clama la gente del pueblo de Espinar ante demostración de autoritarismo del gobierno por detención del alcalde Mollohuanca.

The people of Espinar are clamoring ‘free Oscar’ in protest of the authoritarianism of the government in arresting Mayor Mollohuanca.

Meanwhile, Maricarmen Colonna (@mcolonnal) notes the contrast between the huge number of police involved in the arrest versus the lack of police dealing with crime:

¡Como 300 policìas haciendo su show para arrestar al alcalde de Espinar. Pero cuando los mandan a buscar delincuentes se les hace aguita

About 300 police putting on a show to arrest the mayor of Espinar. But when they're supposed to look for criminals, they fall apart.

Juan Diego Zacarías (@diegozac) in turn echoes the theme repeated by the people of Espinar:

“Ollanta traicionero” resuena desde Espinar

“Ollanta traitor” they yell from Espinar

Twitter users César Ponce (@cesarponcec) and Paola (@yosoypao) exchange views about the actual willingness of the government to dialogue:

dónde está el jefe policial que coordina todo este mamarracho ¿? ahora con quien va a negociar el gob si detienen de esa forma al alcalde ¿?

Where is the police chief coordinating all this mess? Now who will the government negotiate with if they've arrested the mayor like this?

@cesarponcec el gobierno no está buscando el diálogo, eso queda claro con la captura del alcalde de Espinar.

@cesarponcec the government isn't looking for dialogue, that's clear after the arrest of the mayor.

While an ex-member of the current government, Carlos Tapia (@carlosETapia), believes:

Detención de alcalde de Espinar, impidiendo Mesa de Diálogo, es una torpeza política de Calle y Valdéz.¿no se dan cuenta?

Can't you see that arresting the mayor of Espinar, preventing negotiations, is a policy blunder by Calle and Valdez?

The photographer Silvana García (@sgarciaasenjo) questions the motives for the arrest:

De que se le acusa al alcalde de #Espinar‬?

What is the mayor of #Espinar‬ being accused of?

Not all opinions were against the action taken, some were in favor, applauding the imposition of law and order, like Sara Delgado (@Saritrovick) and Jorge Berrocal (@Jberroc):

Que se imponga el orden, la ley y la autoridad RT “@canalN_ Ultimo minuto en Canal N, Policía detiene al Alcalde de Espinar….”

Restore law, order and authority RT “@canalN_breaking news on Channel N, the police arrest the mayor of Espinar”

User @marconaprotesta reports:

Detención d alcalde d Espinar no fue arbitraria tenía orden d captura x dirigir sucesos vandálicos y tener explosivos en su camioneta

The arrest of the mayor of Espinar wasn't arbitrary, there was a warrant for leading vandalism acts and having explosives in his truck

Alfonso Baella (@alfonsobaella) holds that,

En Espinar los problemas son policiales, no ambientales. La ley a los que promueven violencia, muerte y destrucción.

In Espinar the problems are political, not environmental. Law to those who promote violence, death and destruction.

While Mauricio Rozas Valz (@MauricioRozasV) requests:

Todo el peso de la ley para el alcalde de Espinar. Debe recibir condena ejemplar.1:37 PM – 30 May 12 via web

The full weight of the law for the mayor of Espinar. He should receive punishment [that sets] an example.

On May 29, with the state of emergency in effect, Espinar had a day of tense calm, knowing that the death toll had risen to four, while at the police station in the Xstrata Tintaya mining camp, 24 were under arrest [es]. It was also reported that police stopped a serenazgo [municipal patrol] truck from Espinar carrying Molotov cocktails, and they also arrested the president of the Front for the Defense of Espinar, Herbert Huaman.

Several congressmen [es] and Andean parliament members have expressed their concern and distress over the acts of repression, including asking the Prime Minister to resign. Meanwhile, the Minister of the Environment stated that the protests and complaints about environmental pollution in Espinar do not correspond with the zone of influence of Xstrata Tintaya's mining activities.

Representatives of the Minister of the Interior announced [es] the initiation of an investigation of Óscar Mollohuanca, the mayor of Espinar, and other area leaders, responsible for the strikes in the area. The charges include embezzlement in the case of the mayor, and riots, contempt of authority and kidnapping for the others being investigated. Likewise, the Comptroller General's office announced an inspection [es] in the Provincial Municipality of Espinar to verify the charges of alleged use of public assets and resources in organizing protest marches against mining activity in the area.

The latest notices from Espinar indicate [es] that the arrested mayor is giving his statement at the police station at Tintaya. In the afternoon, the mayor of Espinar was transported by helicopter to the City of Cusco, in order to give a statement to the DIRINCRI (Criminal Investigation Unit). More news is expected soon.

To better understand the characteristics of the complex case that is developing in Espinar, it is instructive to read this analysis by Francisco Durand and published in Quehacer magazine, issue 173 (2009): “Tintaya y su gobierno minero” (“Tintaya and its mining government”) [es], which illustrates the absence of the state, and the community/mine relationship, where the latter, for all effects and purposes, replaces government.

El Perú contemporáneo es testigo de un desarrollo espectacular de la gran minería. Se trata de un tipo de explotación intensiva en capital, con grandes ganancias, bajos salarios y muchas exoneraciones tributarias. Estamos frente a un patrón de acumulación más que uno de desarrollo, lo que ha provocado diversos tipos de interpretaciones sobre conflictos sociales y dinámicas redistributivas.

Contemporary Perú is witnessing a spectacular development of large scale mining. This is a type of capital-intensive operation, with large profits, low wages and many tax exemptions. We are facing a pattern of accumulation rather than one
of development, which has resulted in several types of interpretations of social conflicts and redistributive dynamics.
Thumbnail image from Facebook page of David Hurtado.
Original post published in the blog [es] blog of Juan Arellano.


  • […] Óscar Mollohuanca, mayor of Espinar, after being detained and transferred to Cusco for questioning before the Peruvian National Police, is now facing [es] […]

  • […] Peru: Mayor of Espinar Arrested Amid Mining Conflict, Juan Arellano, English translation by Betsy Galbreath (Español aquí): Amid a heavy police deployment, the mayor of the province of Espinar, Oscar Mollohuanca, was arrested on May 30 at midday. The mayor had been in hiding after a state of emergency was declared in the area because of the conflict between the community of Espinar and the mining company Xstrata Tintaya, and especially after learning there was an arrest warrant out for him. – En medio de un fuerte despliegue policial, el alcalde de la provincia de Espinar, Óscar Mollohuanca, fue detenido el 30 de mayo en horas del mediodía. El alcalde había pasado a un estado de clandestinidad luego de declararse el estado de emergencia en la zona por el conflicto entre la comunidad de Espinar y la minera Xstrata Tintaya, y más aún luego de conocerse que tenía orden de detención. […]

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