By Patricia Velez
2 May 2011, LIMA - Peru's next president, to be elected on June 5, will inherit hundreds of festering social conflicts that threaten to paralyze mining and energy investments in one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
Some $40 billion in mostly foreign investment has been lined up for Peruvian projects over the next decade, equal to about one third of Peru's gross domestic product.
But much of that could be rerouted if the government fails to defuse strident opposition in rural areas to the extractive projects that local residents say will cause pollution, use up scarce water supplies and fail to lift them from poverty.
There are 200 conflicts over natural resources in Peru, according to the country's human rights office.
Most of the disputes are in the poorest areas of Peru, where the fruits of a decade-long economic boom driven by surging commodities prices have not been seen.
Left-wing nationalist Ollanta Humala and right-winger Keiko Fujimori are virtually tied in the race for the presidency; whoever wins will have to try to resolve the conflicts to keep the Andean nation's booming economy on track.
The stand-offs often turn deadly. The government put the breaks on a $1 billion project from Southern Copper (SCCO.N), one of the world's top copper producers, after protesting farmers blocked roads and three people died last month in a clash with police.
Two years ago, 30 people died in protests against laws passed to promote investment in the Amazon and implement Peru's free-trade pact with the United States. President Alan Garcia was forced to repeal some of the laws and fire his entire cabinet in the worst crisis his presidency.
While Garcia's government considers granting concessions to foreign companies key to sustaining economic growth, indigenous groups in the Amazon and Andean mountains say the mines, dams and oil fields are destroying their ancestral lands.
"Indigenous people will continue offering their lives in the legitimate defense of their lands," Alberto Pizango, the head of Peru's top indigenous rights organization who led the protests two years told Reuters.
For the complete article, please see Reuters.