Peru: five killed in market vendor protest

A confrontation on March 3 between police agents and market vendors in Piura, capital of Peru’s northwestern Piura province, resulted in the deaths of at least five civilians, according to the authorities; 95 civilians and 25 agents were injured in the incident, and 137 people were arrested. The vendors were protesting Piura mayor M├│nica Zapata’s plan to remove them from their current location in the Modelo Market to a new market area that they considered inadequate.

According to police, some two thousand vendors marched on city hall March 3 in response to an order for their removal, which was supposed to take place that day. When Mayor Zapata refused to meet with them, the vendors reportedly threw rocks at the building and carried out acts of violence in various streets in the center of the city. The authorities said police used tear gas and fired shots into the air to disperse the protesters. Five people were killed, according to the government, but the Peruvian daily La Rep├║blica reported that seven died, including two underage youths who hadn’t been part of the protest. One youth was shot in the head and the other in the chest; witnesses told La Rep├║blica that they saw a police agent shoot one of the youths.

On March 4 national police director Miguel Hidalgo and Interior Minister Octavio Salazar testified on the incident before the congressional Defense Committee, which expressed its unanimous support for the actions of the police. Also on March 4, hundreds of people attended funerals for the victims. “M├│nica murderer,” they chanted, referring to Mayor Zapata.

After the confrontation, Zapata expressed willingness to consider a different location for the new market, and as of March 5 she and representatives of the vendors were in negotiations. Carlos S├ínchez, general manager of the Piura Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern over the loss of business during the crisis and said he hoped there would be a solution soon. “The city’s growing economically and is getting the attention of big companies that find this is a strategic area for doing business,” he explained. “That’s the case with Open Plaza and Ripley, which are opening their doors [here] this year.” (Los Tiempos, Bolivia, March 5 from AP; La Rep├║blica, March 5; El Comercio, Peru, March 6) (Open Plaza is a chain of shopping malls, and Ripley is a department store chain.)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 9

See our last post on Peru.