Monday, July 13, 2009

Paro in Peru: 8 July 2009

Outside of the Central Market in Cusco, a throng of people slowly marched through the otherwise empty street, most traffic suspended for the day. They chanted “Urgente! Urgente! Nuevo presidente!” Some beat on drums, others blew horns.

On July 8, 2009, unions across Peru organized a national strike (paro). After several conversations with various Cusqueñans, and after reading newspapers and the wall of information posted for public display, I understand that participants used the strike to voice a quantity of grievances against the current president, Alan García.

I spoke with a municipal worker in the Plaza de Armas named Sylvester (left). In his opinion, “the platform of the fight is [that] our Peruvian government wants to privatize our natural resources, riches, and territory that had been adjudicated as part of the state.” Referencing a nationwide economic crisis, he condemned the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, claiming that it “doesn’t benefit us, the people of lesser resources; [it] only benefits those higher up [like] business owners.” Sylvester highlighted another point of the strike to be the nationalization of the factories, explaining that “before they belonged to the state but now they have been privatized. We want them to be nationalized, and not in the hands of international companies” (my translation).

While not all were in accordance with the strike, many groups spoke out in Cusco. Of what I witnessed, protests were generally peaceful, with a massive number of police keeping watch throughout the city. In addition to unions marching through the streets, a large collection of posters and pictures lined the stone wall of one of the main buildings along the Plaza de Armas. I heard both that law faculty from a university had posted the information as well as local writers. There were also large sheets of blank paper taped to the wall on which the public was encouraged to write their opinions on topics ranging from the privatization of water to Alan García’s relationship with the United States. While I have read that the strike was not as widespread as some had hoped, I understand that it is probably not the last that we will see.

To see more photos of this day, visit flickr.

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