NEW YORK — Peru's president warned Friday that environmental "extremists" could hurt the golden goose of mining revenue.
During an interview with The Associated Press, President Ollanta Humala said his top priority during the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations this week had been to sound the alarm on climate change. The Andean nation will host U.N.-sponsored climate talks in December.
But in July, Humala enacted a law that weakens environmental protections in his country.
Environmental activists want things to stay the same, but Peru's mining-dependent economy must ensure it does not bankrupt businesses with fines, he said.
"It's not about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs," he said.
The new law slashes maximum fines for environmental violations, speeds environmental reviews for new projects and eliminates the environment ministry's power to establish nature reserves.
Humala said Peru is recalibrating its environmental protections, not weakening them. He says his administration's role is to mediate between the companies that have pockmarked the country with more than 300 major mines and the activists who oppose them.
He also touched on the situation in neighboring Venezuela, where human rights groups have raised concerns about violence and judicial reprisals deployed against opponents of the socialist administration.
Humala said he was concerned about reports of political prisoners but that a small country like his can do little to castigate Venezuela even if it wanted to.
"Obviously, we do not agree with people being detained because of their ideas," he said, adding that the solution is for the Venezuelan administration and its opponents to reinitiate dialogue.
Peru has historically worked with the U.S to combat drug trafficking. Humala said he is trying to delegate that work to other members of his administration and move on to discussing other issues.
"We want to de-narcotize our bilateral relationship," he said.
Associated Press writer Claudia Torrens contributed to this story. Hannah Dreier on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahdreier