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Latino Daily News

Saturday December 3, 2011

1 Dead, 20 Injured in Protest Against Peru Prison Expansion

1 Dead, 20 Injured in Protest Against Peru Prison Expansion

Photo: Peru Prison Conditions

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Clashes between Peruvian police and protesters opposed to the expansion of a prison south of this capital left one dead and 20 injured, local media reported.

Pierre Eduardo Gonzales Arias, 24, died of an apparent gunshot wound during Friday’s disturbances in the coastal province of Cañete, Raul Castañeda Marin, the director of an area hospital, told the Radio Programas station.

Both civilians and law-enforcement personnel were injured in the melee, which pitted police against hundreds of people opposed to the expansion of the La Cantera prison, located about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Lima.

Police quickly brought a halt to the unrest, clearing the Panamericana Sur highway with the help of a helicopter that fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

The protesters say they oppose a decision by the National Penitentiary Institute, or Inpe, to expand the prison despite a lack of potable water or drainage system for the some 3,000 inmates already housed there.

Justice Minister Francisco Eguiguren, however, said Inpe has no plans for a new penitentiary or to increase the prison population in the province and is building two additional cellblocks and training workshops at the facility to improve conditions for current inmates.

In a subsequent statement, the Justice Ministry said it “regrets the loss of a human life, the violent incidents and the unrest that occurred” in Cañete.

It said the prison expansion is aimed at boosting safety conditions and alleviating overcrowding and that the work “will not begin until the population (of Cañete) is fully aware of the extent of and need for the project.”

“In that regard, any decision on the construction work will be subject to a dialogue between authorities and (community) leaders,” the statement said.

No talks will be possible, however, while the violence persists, the ministry said, adding that it has asked the national Ombud’s Office “to lend its good offices to re-establishing communication channels and restoring order” in the province.