Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Clashes between police and farmers in Peru left at least four protesters dead on Tuesday. Farmers had called a nationwide action to push for state subsidies as part of a free-trade agreement with the U.S., for lower prices on fertilizer and for a halt to farm seizures by banks. Peru, the world's largest exporter of organic coffee, asparagus and paprika, boosted agricultural exports to the U.S. and China by 10 percent to $2 billion last year.

The government yesterday declared a state of emergency and granted the armed forces control over the states of Lima, Ancash and La Libertad in a bid to free about 1,000 stranded buses after protesters battled police and blocked roads and railway lines, Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo said Tuesday.

Bloomberg reports the protest left more than 140,000 passengers stranded yesterday at a dozen roadblocks around the country, causing 25 million soles ($8.6 million) in losses for Peru's transport industry. Railways and roads, including the Pan-American highway, the major route on the Peruvian coast, were blocked with tree trunks, rocks and sand. Rail services to the country's Machu Picchu site were also blocked on Monday, with about 400 travellers left stranded near the ancient Inca ruins, Peru's biggest tourist attraction.

"The government only listens to us when we strike," said Antolin Huascar, the head of a national farmers' group.

According to government sources, the farmers have now declared the "strike" over.

``We've told our people to return to normality,'' Enrique Malaga, president of the National Irrigation Board, helped organize the protest, said in a telephone interview. ``We will be discussing issues which have yet to be resolved with the government.''

While all this is going on activists have been threatening to again block access to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the airport in nearby Cusco as a protest against a new law that would allow increased development near Peru’s archaeological zones. Protesters burned tires and blocked roads around Cuzco earlier this month as 30,000 demonstrators asked the government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia to repeal two laws that make it easier to obtain licenses to build hotels and other works near historic and archaeological sites.

The proposed laws, one of which was already rejected but requires a second vote, would ease construction restrictions in Cuzco and allow for more hotels to be built near archaeological sites. The area between Cuzco and Machu Picchu is dotted with ancient Inca ruins.

The following is from Prena Latina.

Three More Peruvian Farmers Killed

Another three Peruvian farmers were killed in Police operations against strikers demanding compensation for damages derived from the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

The deaths occurred in central Andean Arequipa and Ayacucho regions, where protesters built road blockages.

An unidentified farmer, who was blocking the strategic Panamericana Sur Highway, died when the police-launched tear gas canister knocked him into a ravine, according to witnesses.

In Ayacucho, farm workers Ruben Pariona and Emiliano Garcia were shot dead by police during repression of another road blockage, according to Canal N TV.

Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo requested a four-year sentences for the over 160 people that have been arrested since last Monday.

In spite of the strike´s magnitude, Agriculture minister Ismael Benavides claimed the protests have failed.

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