File image: Reuters

Activists opposed to a silver mine in the southeastern Puno region on Sunday rejected a deal with the government and said protests will continue, even if it means there will be no regional voting in the upcoming presidential run-off.

The protesters, mostly Aymara Indians, are angry over plans by a Canadian company to open a silver mine in the area, fearing it will pollute the water and leave few local benefits.

They have blocked roads and trapped hundreds of tourists in this town of 120,000 on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

Protesters on Friday set fire to a customs building after a night of violence in which three government offices were looted. Protest leaders blamed the violence on criminals who infiltrated their demonstrations.

Negotiators for the demonstrators on Saturday agreed to halt the protests in exchange for a 12-month freeze on all regional mining activity.

But on Sunday the rank-and-file protesters, who have been demonstrating for three weeks, insisted on a definite ban on mining ratified through a presidential decree.

“We reject that agreement because it is not what the people want,” protest leader Walter Aduviri told AFP.

The protesters want the concession granted to Canada-based Bear Creek Mining Corporation to open a silver mine in the community of Santa Ana to be revoked.

The cancellation of the Bear Creek project and other area mines “has not been achieved, so the protests will continue,” Aduviri said.

The protests began along the Peru-Bolivia border and spread on May 24 to Puno, the regional capital. Some 15,000 area peasants, mostly Aymara Indians, marched into the city and blocked all routes of access.

The threat of more protests comes as Peru enters the final stretch of campaigning for a June 5 presidential election pitting a leftist populist Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, imprisoned for crimes against humanity.

Polls show the two are in a statistical tie, and the Puno region is considered an Humala stronghold.

But if the protests continue, Puno residents will be unable to cast ballots in the run-off vote.

“In Puno there will be no second-round elections between Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala,” Aduviri said. - Sapa-AFP