As popular organizations called a one-day general strike July 9 to protest rising food and fuel prices, Peru’s President Alan García accused leftist opponents of plotting to overthrow him. “What we are seeing is a conspiracy that is underway,” García told reporters. Protesters filled the streets of cities across the country, halting traffic and shutting down rail access to Machu Picchu, Peru’s top tourist destination. “They want to attack the democratic system…and take power by force,” García said.
Garcia said his leftist opponents resort to force because they failed to win power through the ballot box. “They have never won elections and aren’t smart enough to conduct campaigns,” he said. In a barely veiled swipe at sympathizers of Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, he added: “They say we should be an Andean, Aymaran, Bolivarian republic, and some want to do this by force.”
Meanwhile, protest organizers emphasized economic demands. “This is a government of the rich and of multinational corporations,” said Mario Huaman, leader of the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP), the country’s largest union. “The economic model must change.”
Elías Grijalva, leader of the rival Confederation of Workers of Peru (CTP), linked to Garcia’s ruling APRA, echoed the president that the protesters seek to impose “designs they have imported from Venezuela and Bolivia.” (Reuters, July 10; El Comercio, Lima, July 4)
While the CGTP called the strike, there was broad participation from campesinos, who emphasized their own demands over land rights and autonomy. In Cajamraca region, mobilizations were led by the local Rondas Campesinas, peasant militias established in the ’80s to defend their lands from the Shining Path insurgency. Among their demands were a halt to expansion of mining operations at Yanacocha, which they charge with contaminating local water sources. (AIDESEP, July 8)
Peasant land tenure was also at the heart of the rural mobilizations—especially Garcia’s Legal Decree 1015 of May 20, designed to speed the transfer of titled indigenous and campesino lands to private investors. DL 1015 modifies Peru’s agrarian statute, Law 26-505, which required a 66.6% vote of the members of the governing assemblies of indigenous and campesino communities to sell their lands. Under DL 1015, sale can be authorized by a simple majority vote. (AIDESEP, July 8; Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, July 7; ALAI, May 6)