To protest against the government’s free-market policies, thousands of people have joined marches and strikes in Peru. They say that the wealth from an economic boom has not been spread by the government.
Accusing president Alan Garcia of being a traitor to his socialist roots, and waving red flags, strikers gathered in one of Lima’s main squares.
There was transport disruption across the country, and even if the protests were largely peaceful, police say about 200 people have been arrested.
The president’s free market policies are benefitting only the business sector and multinational companies, leaving the poor behind, say the protesters. They say that though Peru is enjoying one of the world’s highest growth rates, pay remains low and the cost of living keeps on rising.
Mario Huaman, the leader of the trade union federation which organised the strike, said it was a success, with people from textiles workers to retired policemen turning out to protest.
“This is a government of the rich and the transnational companies. Why did we hold this strike? Precisely to ask it that the growth benefit the majority of the population”, he said.
“So that there’s more redistribution of the wealth, so that’s more investment in health, education and security.”
Fewer than one in 10 workers joined the strike, said the government.
But in a rare move, President Garcia said he acknowledged that in a large section of Peruvian society there was dissatisfaction, and he saluted those who protested peacefully.
Driven my demand from China and India, Peru’s mining sector is capitalising on high metals prices.
But while the export-based economy largely benefits the main cities on the coast while, the majority of people still live in poverty in the Andean and Amazon interior.