Monday, February 18, 2008


The article I'm posting below discusses blockades and the like across Peru today by angry farmers. Unfortunately the article doesn't mention what they are angry about.

I'm gonna give a stab at what might be up.

It could be that these are coca farmers (some of whom are pictured here). Peruvian farmers rely heavily on the coca crop to sustain their economic livelihoods. Peru's coca growers have been on a national strike since October 2 Coca farmers protesting the eradication of their plantations have been demanding that Peru's war on drugs shift its focus more toward eliminating the chemicals used to produce cocaine rather than getting rid of the coca fields themselves.

Over half of the nation lives in poverty, specifically in the rural, indigenous sectors such as the Amazon jungle region. Coca farmers depend on the coca crop to stay out of poverty.

The Peruvian coca farmers forewarned the government that rioting, roadblocks and increased violence would result if the eradication program continued.

Or maybe, more likely, this has to do with the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement which most say will do more harm than good for millions of Peruvians who live in poverty. Last summer a nationwide strike against the Free Trade Agreement rocked Peru.

"By fully opening Peru's markets to subsidized US agricultural products, this trade agreement will destroy our domestic agriculture, threaten our food security and increase social problems," said Luis Zúñiga, president of the National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture (Conveagro) a couple of months ago. "Farmers demands for greater public investment in and modernization of the agricultural sector have gone unmet over many years, but now our needs will be far greater and the threat to our livelihoods far worse."

"The agreement provides special rights for foreign investors who want to operate in Peru at the expense of weakened ability on the part of the government to establish laws that promote social welfare and a better distribution of wealth," according to Pedro Francke, a Peruvian expert on social policy to combat poverty and former director of the health organization FOROSALUD. "In spite of the modifications made to the intellectual property rules of the agreement, provisions remain that will make it more difficult for Peru to promote access to affordable medicines."

But wait, I just discovered this from Peru's La Repbulica (translated roughly):

The chairman of the Agrarian Confederation, Antolin Huáscar, indicates this all has to do with the planned the privatization of water, an urgent change of the national agricultural policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Also, farmers are demanding the reform of agricultural debts, the adoption of the draft law preda, reducing fertilizer and agricultural inputs, the urgent regulation of Agrobanco, among other things.

Well, that clears things up.

The following is from Living in Peru.

Highways blocked all over Peru in farmer's riot/protest/strike

Hundreds of inter-provincial buses were stranded in different parts of the country when farmers and representatives of Peru's agricultural industry blocked several parts of the Panamericana Norte Highway from Huacho - approximately 80 miles north of Lima - to Piura, about 652 miles north of the country's capital city.

Protesters have been threatening to strike for some time and began blocking roads at midnight.

Motorists and bus passengers called RPP Noticias early this morning reporting that the Panamericana Norte Highway was blocked in Chancay, Huacho, Huarmey, Trujillo and Piura.

Luis Trujillano, a reporter for RPP Noticias in Chimbote told listeners that approximately 300 buses were waiting for the country's national police to remove debris from the main highway so traffic could return to normal.

National highway police chief, Eduardo Arteta reported that police were making a tremendous effort to get protesters off the highway and clear it of rocks and debris.

Although several parts of the highway have not been cleared, he reported that traffic was back to normal in the regions of Trujillo, Piura and Arequipa.

Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo has assured that there is no reason for the strike, stating that an agreement was signed on Friday between CONVEAGRO (Union of farmers and agricultural producers) and the government.

It was reported that the agreement met 13 of the demands agricultural unions were making.

When asked why the union was supporting the strike, president of CONVEAGRO, Luis Zúñiga said, "Because there are other unions taking part in the strike and we can't abandon them, we will only participate in Monday's strike."

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