Latin American Report



Regional : Politics : X Military :
Environment : Rights : Education :
NZ Links : Aid/Relief : Economics : X
Indigenous : Health :

15 May1999

Peruvians Strike Against President's Policies

On Apr. 28, Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori faced his biggest challenge since taking office in 1990: a powerful 24-hour national civic strike organized by labor unions and supported by a broad range of groups, including student groups, opposition parties and business organizations. Much of Peru was shut down by the strike, called in opposition to Fujimori's economic policies and authoritarian style of rule. Strikers demanded a solution to the country's rampant unemployment, and rejected Fujimori's attempts to seek reelection to a third term as president. (Fujimori has not said if he plans to run in the April 2000 presidential elections, but his backers in Congress have approved a controversial law paving the way for him to do so.)

Some 5,000 demonstrators took part in converging marches in Lima during the one-day strike, according to Fujimori's own admission. One march of some 2,000 people was headed by Lima mayor Alberto Andrade, who current voter intention polls show leading the race to be Peru's next president. The government had ordered 20,000 police agents into the streets; soldiers with automatic weapons guarded public buildings and armored troop carriers patrolled streets. The strike was largely peaceful, although in Lima, some protesters blocked streets with burning tires and threw stones at buses, and police fired tear gas at demonstrators near the headquarters of the Peruvian Aprista Party of former president Alan Garcia. At least 45 people were arrested in isolated incidents around the country. Fujimori denied rumors that agents of the National Intelligence Service (SIN) had infiltrated the Lima demonstration and provoked the violent incidents.

Juan Jose Gorriti, general secretary of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP), said participation in the strike was much higher outside the capital, with about 90% of the population participating, while he said about 60% took part in the strike in Lima. Some 38% of Peru's population lives in Lima. CGTP president Jose Luis Risco said the strike was observed by 70% of the workers at the national level. Gorriti blasted Fujimori for carrying out a campaign of disinformation before, during and after the strike. Fujimori had labeled the strike organizers as "communists," and Labor Minister Pedro Flores declared the strike illegal. "The strike was political because we seek to change the politics of the country, and it was not partisan because no political party has tried to take advantage of this," said Gorriti. Unionists annnounced on Apr. 29 that they will call more protests if the government doesn't open a dialogue and change its economic policies. [La Republica (Lima) 4/30/99; Associated Press 4/28/99; CNN en Espanol 4/29/99 with info from Reuters, 4/28/99 with info from AP; El Nuevo Herald (Miami) 4/30/99 from Reuters, 4/29/99 from AP]

Opposition to the government has been building as Fujimori's neoliberal economic policies bring a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty. The policies that Fujimori instituted after taking office did reduce hyperinflation, which exceeded 7,000% in 1990, the year he became president. But the privatization of state enterprises has left tens of thousands of people without jobs, and more than 50% of the population is living in poverty. Peru's economic growth -- which reached 32% between 1993 and 1996--has stagnated, and office vacancy signs are now prevalent in Lima's business and upscale shopping districts. Even the privileged classes now complain about Fujimori's policies. [AP 4/28/99]

Fujimori said on Apr. 29 that 96% of the private sector was unaffected by the strike, but he admitted that there were some absences in the public sector, and warned that workers who participated in or promoted the strike will be fired or have their pay docked. Fujimori also criticized opposition leaders for failing to present any alternative proposals to the current policies. A University of Lima poll taken on Apr. 26 in the Lima/Callao metropolitan area had showed 56.94% of respondents supporting the call for the civic strike, while 34.92% did not support it and 8.13% declined to give their opinion. [LR 4/30/99]

"This reminds me of the strikes at the end of the decade of the 70s when workers and business leaders joined together to drive the military regime from power," said opposition newspaper columnist and political commentator Fernando Rospigliosi. "Something similar is happening now." [AP 4/28/99]

Weekly News Update on the Americas * Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY
339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012 * 212-674-9499 fax: 212-674-9139 *