Peruvian mayor of town near giant copper project assassinated
LIMA, March 19 (Reuters) - The new mayor of a small Andean town in Peru near a huge, multi-billion-dollar copper project was shot dead in an apparent ambush while traveling by car in the region, authorities said on Thursday.
Peru's interior minister vowed to carry out a thorough investigation of the assassination of Alberto Roque, 35, who assumed power in January as mayor of Mara in Peru's central highland region Apurimac.
"It was not a robbery," said local prosecutor Jessica Pumacayo. "But we don't know the motive...so far we don't have any indications he had enemies."
Antolin Chipani, the mayor of nearby town Challhuahuacho, said Roque had been busy negotiating with the central government to broaden education and job opportunities to towns around MMG Ltd's $7 billion proposed Las Bambas project.
Prime Minister Ana Jara said "radical groups" might have targeted Roque to silence moderates working with her cabinet.
"There are reasons to believe this was a warning to political authorities who are taking part in dialogue," Jara said on local broadcaster RPP.
In early February, an estimated 1,000 protesters from rural communities kidnapped some 200 contract workers for the miner for several hours, according to a report by the country's ombudsman.
Peru, the world's third biggest copper producer, is rife with social conflicts, especially in the mineral-rich Andes where billion-dollar mines are built alongside poor communities that lack basic services.
Roque was found dead in his car Wednesday after airing his town's demands to the energy and mines ministry in a meeting with other local leaders, said Chipani. Continuación...