Policeman charged for shotgun murder of campesino protesters during February farmers strike

A local prosecutor in Ayacucho has filed murder charges against a police officer for the deaths of two farmers gunned down during a national farmworker’s strike last February.

The criminal charges represent an embarrassing blow to Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro, who was hauled before Congress. He issued a blanket denial to avoid a vote of censure over the heavy handed response by the National Police to the nationwide protest.

“No bullet from the National Police of Peru caused the deaths of the campesinos,” Alva Castro declared before lawmakers Feb. 27. “We continue working root out those responsible … The instigators will reveal themselves and should be prosecuted for terrorism, murder and other crimes.”

Prosecutor Hugo Martínez Mamani filed the charges Wednesday against Patrolman Carlos Alberto Rodríguez Huamaní after he reportedly confessed to opening fire on the protesters with a shotgun at point blank range. Rodríguez Huamani had submitted to a gunpowder residue test that came back positive.

Four campesinos died during the two-day strike. One protester was struck by a tear gas cannister that knocked him down a 30-foot embankment and a fourth demonstrator was reportedly killed in an exchange of gunfire during a dispute with passengers on a bus stranded by protester’s roadblocks.

The murders of Rubén Pariona, 25, and Emiliano García Mendoza, 45, caused a furor among Ayacucho residents, who flooded the streets in protest. Video news footage appeared to back up protesters’ contentions that Pariona and García Mendoza were both shot in the back of the head.

Martínez Mamani also filed criminal charges of “instigation” against Teodoro Félix Quispe Mitacc, president of one of the farmworkers federations in Ayacucho.

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