Peru's government clinched a deal on Thursday to end a week-long blockade that has paralyzed a top mining region and caused food shortages, after marathon negotiations with leaders of the province of Moquegua.
Residents of Moquegua have occupied roads, including the main highway to Chile, and severed access to the Ilo smelter and Cuajone mine of Southern Copper Corp
The blockade showed that President Alan Garcia faces mounting pressure to spread the wealth from a six-year economic boom to workers and the poor.
We've reached an accord that ends the conflict and returns peace to the province of Moquegua and certainly means that the blockade will be lifted, Jorge del Castillo, Garcia's chief of staff, told reporters.
At one point club-wielding protesters took 60 police hostage, and the government sent ships with food and fuel to replenish supplies in neighboring Tacna province.
Local political leaders sanctioned the pact, which includes more economic assistance for the province.
We want peace, tranquility and development for our people. Thank God we reached a solution, said Mauricio Nina, a mayor from a town in the province.
A two-day strike that cut output at Southern Copper's Cuajone mine was also lifted on Thursday, union leader Roman More told Reuters.
The strike has ended, he said.
But roadblocks may not be removed immediately, as local political leaders will need to return to Moquegua to meet with protesters to explain the deal that was sealed.
A Southern Copper official said the Ilo smelter was running low on supplies and could be halted unless roads are cleared soon.
Though the government negotiated an end to the blockade, it still must persuade striking miners at Peru's third-largest copper pit to return to work.
Workers have been on strike for ten days at Cerro Verde
(c) Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.