Peru's defense minister, Rafael Rey, shot back Monday at critics who blamed the government for the escalation of a miners' protest into a confrontation that left six dead.
By calling in the national police to confront the protesters, the government was only responding to an illegal roadblock of a major highway, Rey said, according to the state-run Andina news agency.
The roadblock, initiated by informal miners in near the city of Chala, were impeding the movement of people and goods, and the government could not stand idly by, he said.
On Sunday, police tried to break the roadblock, and in the ensuing confrontation, six people died, including at least one bystander who was traveling on a bus, officials said. At least 25 were injured and 28 were arrested, Andina reported.
How the six died was not immediately clear. Autopsies have been ordered.
Chala is located about 370 miles south of the capital, Lima.
The informal miners are protesting new laws that seek to regulate and tax their activities.
According to Andina, the roadblock was made up of 40 vehicles and about 400 people. The protesters continued to block part of the Pan-American Highway Monday.