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Army Sent In To Peruvian Privatisation Protests

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo today declared the suspension of constitutional rights in the south of the country following widespread protests against the privatisation of two electricity companies. The following are two reports from on the standoff.

Privatization Protesters Shut Down The Airport In Arequipa
anyone 3:12pm Sun Jun 16 '02

Residents of Peru's second city, Arequipa, blocked the airport runway on Saturday as they stiffened their opposition to the sell-off of two electricity companies

Peruvians holding a sign that reads: "Toledo traitor, die" during a rally in Arequipa to protest the privatization of two state-owned electricity companies. Many are unconvinced that privatization is the answer, fearing a repeat of Peru's experience in the 1990s, when then-President Alberto Fujimori raised some $9 billion from state sales.

President Toledo took office last July promising to create jobs and boost prosperity but has seen his popularity slump to nearly 20 percent amid protests at the slow pace of progress.

"Toledo promised in Arequipa that he wouldn't privatize Egasa and Egesur. We're only asking him to keep his word," Geronimo Lopez, head of a local pressure group, told CPN radio.

He said the sales should at least be delayed until after regional elections in November, to allow incoming local authorities to decide what to do with the utilities.

The rally was accompanied by a citywide strike that shut down businesses and public transportation as protesters blocked streets, highways and the local airport's landing strip with rocks, broken bottles and burning tires. Flights were canceled after protesters walked onto runway and refuse to leave.
Police said 18 people had been arrested for disturbing the peace and officials said some 50 had been injured as opposition to Friday's privatization which residents fear will rob them of jobs and jack up electricity bills sparked clashes that continued into the night.

The most seriously hurt was a 25-year-old man, reportedly unconscious after a tear gas canister hit him in the head. Witnesses said some banks and phone booths had been destroyed.

Mayor of Arequipa, Juan Manuel Guillen, who has been on hunger strike for four days against the sale of the electricity companies, appealed for calm, saying violence was harming their entirely just cause.


Peruvians Protest Privatization Of Power
anyone 5:45am Sat Jun 15 '02 (Modified on 8:22am Sat Jun 15 '02)

Protests erupted in two cities in southern Peru on Friday after the government forged ahead with the privatization of two state-owned electricity companies.

Demonstrators holding stones and poles shout slogans during a protest Friday at Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, 465 miles southeast of Lima, Peru. Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered in the colonial plaza chanting slogans against President Alejandro Toledo and tearing up stone bricks from the cobblestone streets.

The demonstrators filled the plaza after the government announced in Lima, the capital, that it had sold an electricity-generating company in Arequipa and another in neighboring Tacna to Tractebel, a Belgian company, for $167 million.

Peruvian Congressman Arturo Valderrama, left, interrupts the controversial auction of two state-owned electricity companies in Lima, Peru Friday, June 14. Energy and Mines Minister Jaime Quijandria, center, complains in the background. Wearing a white bib with "Hunger Strike" written in red, Valderrama, of the main opposition APRA party, slipped past 30 police into the hall to hand out documents slamming the sale as officials were poised to announce the winner. The sale took place despite weeks of delays, strong protests and work stoppages in the southern regions where the companies are located.

Valderrama started a hunger strike Tuesday to protest the privatization.

See also...
Peru M 14
Despite dire warnings and the mobilization of 90,000 police todays protests against the privatization of the electricity companies took place without being hijacked by "extremists, terrorists or Shining Path leftists".

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