At least nine police officers and seven Amazon Indians have been killed in violent protests in northern Peru over land rights, local officials say.
Fighting broke out when some 400 police officers moved in to break up a roadblock stopping traffic along a highway near the city of Bagua, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Lima.
Some 2,500 Indian protesters had been blocking the highway with tree trunks and boulders since last week.
The protesters want decrees that were signed by President Alan Garcia in 2007 and 2008 easing restrictions on mining, oil drilling, wood harvesting and farming in the Amazon rainforest overturned.
Police managed to clear the road, but the protesters retaliated by torching government buildings, looting buildings and attacking the police station, local officials said.
Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas described the situation in Bagua as “chaotic,” while Foreign Minister Jose Garcia Belaunde said the government had decreed a curfew for Bagua and other regional towns.
Some 65 indigenous groups in Peru’s Amazon rainforest have been protesting the Garcia decrees since early April. They are also demanding to be consulted on issues concerning their land.
Protesters included thousands of Indians in five of Peru’s Amazon provinces, from Cuzco in southern Peru, north to the borders with Ecuador and Colombia.
Over the past weeks protesters have taken over airports, blocked bridges and highways, prevented navigation along several rivers, and stopped oil extracted from the Amazon from being shipped out of the region.