Peru: cocaleros, doctors strike

On Oct. 29 some 300,000 campesinos who cultivate coca in 18 of Peru’s valleys began an open-ended strike to protest the failure of the government of President Alan Garcia to comply with the Tocache Document, in which it promised to register coca growers (cocaleros) and to end the destruction of coca crops. The strikers were members of the National Confederation of Farm and Livestock Producers of the Cocalero Basins of Peru. Campesinos blocked the Federico Basadre highway, in Ucayali department, and several sections of the Marginal highway in the Pucallpa region northeast of Lima.

Also on Oct. 29, some 16,000 doctors started a 48-hour strike to demand a $600,000 increase in the health budget; improvements in salaries and hospital infrastructure; increases in the pensions of 2,700 retired doctors; and benefits for 1,700 contract employees of the Health Ministry. The doctors’ union, the Peruvian Medical Federation (FMP), also demanded the resignation of Health Minister Carlos Vallejos, holding him responsible for irregularities in the Integral Health Insurance program and for the deaths of four people in the south of the country after they received vaccinations against yellow fever. FMP president Julio Vargas said the union has proof that the vaccine had passed its expiration date; Vallejos denied the charge.

The Health Ministry said strike participation only reached 13.8% in Lima and 16% outside the capital. The FMP, which is threatening to start an open-ended strike in the second half of November, disputed the ministry’s figures.

Observers consider the current strike wave the greatest challenge to Garcia since he took office last year. Some 21,000 teachers and 22,000 public university had already been on strike for several days when the doctors and cocaleros began their job actions. Adding to the government’s problems, the National Federation of Mine and Metal Workers has announced a strike for Nov. 5, to include marches to the capital from various mining centers, and the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) has called a national day of protest for Nov. 8 to oppose neoliberal economic policies and high unemployment. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 30 from AFP, DPA)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 4

See our last post on Peru.

  1. Peruvian miners halt strike
    Peruvian miners suspended a five-day national mining strike after the country’s Congress made progress on legislation to improve pensions, profit-sharing and rights for subcontracted workers. Mining Federation spokesman Cirilo Yarihuaman said the federation will vote on Nov. 23 to strike again if the laws aren’t passed.

    Strikes this year, including a five-day national walkout by Peruvian miners in May, have cut copper output in Peru, Chile and Mexico, helping to spur a 10 percent rally in the price of the metal. Peru is the world’s third-largest producer of copper, zinc and tin, the biggest of silver and fifth-largest of gold.

    A congressional panel Nov. 8 passed a bill granting miners a 10% share of profits, up from the current 8%. Pending legislation includes setting eight-hour shifts instead of the 12 hours imposed at many mines and putting 85,000 subcontracted workers on company payrolls.

    The stoppage in Peru affected mines owned by companies including Southern Copper Corp., Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Newmont Mining Corp. and Doe Run Resources Corp. Workers also went on strike at mines run by Cia. De Minas Buenaventura SA, tin miner Minsur SA, Shougang Hierroperu’s iron mine and zinc producers Cia. Minera Raura SA and Cia. Minera Santa Luisa, according to the Mining Federation. (Bloomberg, Nov. 9)