Peru: trade pact approved amid protests

On the evening of June 26, hundreds of people vigiled in Lima, Peru, to protest the efforts of the ruling Aprista party majority in Congress to push through the “addenda” of a free trade treaty between the US and Peruvian governments. Last year on June 27, Peru’s outgoing Congress approved the original version of the TLC. The addenda were recently negotiated in secret between US authorities and Peru’s foreign trade minister, Mercedes Araoz, and were given fast-track treatment by the Peruvian Congress, bypassing the usual committee process to go straight to the plenary for approval. The revised text is designed to appease concerns of Democratic lawmakers in the US Congress, which has yet to approve the pact.

The vigil and impromptu rally against the TLC were led by opposition figure and former presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, who called for a national strike on July 11 to coincide with a national agrarian, campesino and indigenous strike against the TLC called by the Campesino Confederation of Peru (CCP). During the June 26 protests, police showed off new tactics for blocking demonstrators from reaching the Congress, using huge metal barricades to block all the streets leading to the Plaza Bolivar and deploying hundreds of agents backed by the newly revamped water-cannon trucks used to break up demonstrations (dubbed “Pinochos” in reference to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime used them widely in Chile).

Earlier in the day on June 26, thousands of Peruvian teachers represented by the Only Union of Education Workers (SUTEP) held a 24-hour strike and march in Lima to protest a proposed law that would affect their sector. Hundreds of police agents blocked the teachers from reaching the Congress.

The same day, thousands of professors who teach at Peru’s public universities marched in the streets, supported by hundreds of students from a number of national universities, including San Marcos. The National Federation of University Professors of Peru (FENDUP) is in the third week of an open-ended strike over salary issues. Also marching on June 26 was the Health Forum, as its members handed in to the National Elections Board and the Congress the first 60,000 signatures demanding debate and approval of a proposed law to provide all Peruvians with universal health insurance.

The media in Peru ignored the protests, preferring to focus on Peru’s surprise 3-0 soccer victory over Uruguay the same day, June 26, in an Americas Cup game in Venezuela. (Article by Jose Coronado of the Campesino Confederation of Peru-CCP, distributed on June 27 by Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales; Prensa Latina, June 28)

On June 28, Peru’s Congress approved the new TLC text with 70 votes in favor, 38 against and one abstention. (Adital, June 28 from Pulsar)

On June 28 in the Amazon region of Ucayali, residents were in the third day of a regional strike protesting a decree that will gradually eliminate tax exemptions for the Amazon regions. And in the southern Andean region of Puno, regional president (governor) Hernan Fuentes has called a 48-hour general strike for July 11-12 over demands relating to a highway and other needs. Leaders in Ucayali and Puno are demanding that high-level government commissions come to their regions to discuss their issues, but so far the government of President Alan Garcia Perez has refused to do so. (Prensa Latina, June 28)

Prime Minister Del Castillo has made several concessions in an effort to avoid similar regional strikes in Arequipa and Cusco. (Jose Coronado article, June 27 from Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 1

See our last post on Peru.