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Peruvian Protest Leader Takes Refuge in Nicaraguan Embassy

A Peruvian Indian leader has taken refuge in the Nicaraguan embassy after deadly protests last week over land usage rights.

Albert Pizango led protests that turned deadly Friday when police tried to break up a roadblock formed by thousands of indigenous protesters carrying wooden spears. Clashes also occurred Saturday as police stormed a remote Amazon oil facility Saturday to free 38 officers held by the demonstrators.

At least 22 police and 30 Indians were killed in the violence.

Peru's prime minister, Yehude Simon, says Pizango - who is wanted on charges of sedition for leading the protests - is asking Nicaragua for asylum.

Peruvian state radio reports Nicaraguan officials will make a decision on the request Tuesday.

Indigenous Peruvians have been blocking roads and waterways since April to demand the government repeal laws they say encourage foreign companies to open mines and drill for oil in the rain forest.

Last week's protests took place in an area of northern Peru known as Curva del Diablo or "Devil's Curve." Indigenous leaders say police shot at them from helicopters, but authorities say the police were attacked.

The unrest is the worst political violence in Peru since the Maoist rebel group, the Shining Path, battled the government in the 1980s and 1990s.

It also is the biggest crisis President Alan Garcia has faced in his term. Mr. Garcia's economic plans have spurred growth, but critics say little wealth is reaching the country's poorest populations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.