On July 27, the eve of Peru’s Independence Day, much of the southern regions of Cusco, Puno, Madre de Dios and Apurímac were paralyzed by a paro, or general strike, to call a halt to the export of natural gas from the Camisea field in the rainforest of Cusco region. Called by peasant and indigenous groups organized in regional Defense Fronts, and supported by many local municipalities, it is the second general strike in as many months to halt traffic and business in Peru’s Southern Macro-Region—and this time the strike has been declared open-ended. Violence was reported at various locales around Cusco region on the strike’s opening day, as National Police used horses, clubs and tear gas to disperse protesters and clear roadblocks. Attacks were also reported on local residents who refused to observe the strike.
Participation in the strike is reported to be strongest—up to 90% of the populace—in the Cuzco provinces of Espinar, Canchis, Tinta and La Convención (where the Camisea gasfields are located). Participation is also reportedly widespread in much of Puno and Madre de Dios, where residents are additionally demanding a halt to the pending Inambari hydro-electric project, which would flood traditional indigenous lands. Traffic on major roads through these regions remains halted, with blockades re-emerging at new locales almost immediately after being broken by police. Indigenous rainforest dwellers whose lands would be impacted by the Inambari project converged on Puerto Maldonado, regional capital of Madre de Dios, for a protest march. (Expreso, July 28; FENAMAD communique, ANSA, July 27; Diario La Primera July 26)