National protests rock Peru as President Alan Garcia navigates through an increasingly tumultuous labor and teacher uprising. Rejections of a free trade agreement with the US and neoliberal economic policies are at the heart of the national uprising which has left three people dead and several wounded.
Protests have stemmed from an increasing gap between the rich minority and the poor majority in the country. Most of Peru‘s population of over 27 million survives on less than a dollar a day. "What we have in Peru is economic growth without social development," a political analyst, Ernesto Velit, told Reuters.
President Garcia, who in his election campaign promised he had learned from his disastrous mistakes in a previous presidency, is now experiencing a sharp decline in approval ratings.
Miners, farmers, construction workers and teachers in Peru are demanding better wages and revisions to the country’s free trade agreement with the US. The international Manco Cápac airport in Juliaca, Peru was occupied by 5,000 workers who set fire to furniture and office equipment in the facility. Members of the Unified Trade Union of Education Workers of Peru (SUTEP) protested the passage of an educational reform law which teachers contend will privatize education and put hundreds of teachers out of work. Protesters are also demanding an assembly be organized to rewrite the country’s constitution so that Peruvians can "effectively recover their rights."
A train carrying tourists to Machu Picchu was pelted with stones thrown by local protesting campesinos. Police officers and one governor were taken hostage by strikers and transportation in many provinces has been at a standstill for days. The teacher strikes closed down 70 percent of the country’s schools, while other protesters blockaded roads and occupied government buildings.
Protesters in southern Peru held nine policemen hostage for six hours. Protest leaders wanted to exchange the hostages for 14 demonstrators who had been arrested. Meanwhile 1,000 people blockading a major highway demanded the government invest in the region and expressed solidarity with the national teachers’ strike.
Ollanta Humala, a left wing candidate in the last elections against Garcia, has joined the strikers in hopes to rekindle a future bid for the presidency.