Campesinos and farmers started an open-ended strike in eight Peruvian departments on Feb. 18, holding marches and blocking highways to demand government measures to ease the impact of a free trade agreement (FTA, or TLC in Spanish) with the US. The action was called by the National Convention of Agriculture (Conveagro), the National Council of Irrigation Users (JNUDR) and the National Agrarian Confederation (CNA). According to JNUDR president Enrique Malaga, the FTA, which is to lift tariffs on heavily subsidized US farm products, will harm more than 1.75 million Peruvian farms.
One protester was killed in Barranca, north of Lima, on Feb. 18; police said he was shot by an angry motorist. Three more protesters were killed on Feb. 19: two were shot dead when police fired into a march in Ayacucho department in the central Andean region; another protester fell to his death as he was fleeing police tear gas near the Pan-American Highway in the southern department of Arequipa. At least 150 people were arrested. The government declared a state of emergency in the eight departments on Feb. 19, and by the end of the day the organizers had suspended the strike and resumed negotiations with the government.
Also on Feb. 19, teachers marched on Congress in Lima to protest a decree by social democratic president Alan Garcia on the hiring of teachers with university degrees in the public schools.
Despite the suspension, campesinos continued the strike through Feb. 20 in the southern departments of Cusco, Arequipa and Ayacucho to protest the four deaths in the preceding days. According to CNR radio, a fifth protester, Edgar Huayta Saccsara, was killed during the Feb. 20 strike. He was reportedly shot in the head during disturbances in Huamanga, capital of Ayacucho; some 73 other people were injured. Also on Feb. 20, US ambassador Peter Michael McKinley spoke out in favor of the trade pact, which the US Congress approved in December. It would “establish modern systems of trade regulation and design a discipline which will improve Peru’s competitiveness and promote its prosperity,” he said. (Bloomberg News, Feb. 21; Earth Times, Feb. 20; TeleSUR, Feb. 19; EFE, Feb. 20; Prensa Latina, Feb. 20)
The protests continued two more days in Cusco, where local people called a 48-hour strike starting on Feb. 21 to protest a law allowing companies to set up businesses near archeological zones. Strikers blocked roads out of the city of Cusco, while some 500 marched in the downtown area. On Feb. 21 protesters marched on the airport, causing some damage and leading the authorities to suspend flights for the duration of the strike. Hundreds of tourists were stranded, but five of them—three from Argentina, one from Colombia and one from Spain—were reportedly detained by the national police in Cusco for joining the protests. (AFP, Feb. 22; Living in Peru, Feb. 21)
On Feb. 22, Peruvian vice president Luis Giampietri blamed the week’s protests on “subversion” by former presidential candidate Ollanta Humala and his Nationalist Peruvian Party (PNP). (La Prensa, Panama, Feb. 24 from DPA.)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 25
See our last post on Peru.