Protests in Peru over rising prices corner Castillo | International
After six days of roadblocks and protests in the Junín region against the rise in fuel, fertilizer and food prices, this Saturday, the clashes between protesters and the police reached their worst moment, with a balance of at least twelve wounded and 14 arrested. The day before, a 13-year-old adolescent who did not participate in the protests tried to escape police repression and drowned in a river. Almost 60% of the voters in that region voted in 2021 for Pedro Castillo, and the president disqualified the mobilizations on Thursday, pointing out that they were “paid leaders and leaders.”
The response of the citizens was to carry posters that said treacherous castle or I am head of my family, and demand that the head of state travel there to solve the problems of the cost of living. Instead, seven ministers arrived in the city of Huancayo, capital of Junín, to set up dialogue tables with the support of the archbishop of that city, Cardinal Pedro Barreto, who has been a mediator in many other social conflicts for decades. The Government signed commitments to temporarily reduce the selective consumption tax by 90% and manage in Congress the exemption of the general sales tax on basic foods such as rice, noodles, chicken and flour for three months.
Governor of this region was Vladimir Cerrón, the politician who promoted Castillo to the presidency. Cerrón had a party, Peru Libre, but he could not run in the last presidential elections due to a disqualification from holding public office. He then sought out Castillo, a teaching union leader. The protesters, according to the Huanca New York Times, a local media outlet, raided Cerrón’s house. Junín is one of the three regions of the Andean country with the highest dairy production and a large percentage of the population devoted to family farming. The food from the Mantaro Valley goes to the capital or to the Amazon through the Central Highway, a road that has been blocked for the passage of buses and cargo trucks since last Monday.
On Tuesday, Candy Hinostroza, a farmer and teacher who was part of a picket of protesters on the Central Highway – 26 kilometers from Huancayo – was hit by a vehicle when she was avoiding the road blockade. She passed away when she was transferred to a sanatorium. The carriers not only called for a strike due to the rise in fuel prices, but also called for the revision of the toll contracts -due to the high rates- and the lack of safety on the roads. In the first three days, in addition to Junín, the strike was also observed in coastal regions; and in Cusco and Ayacucho, to the south.
Since 2021, farmers have demanded a solution from the government due to the global rise in the price of fertilizers. As a solution, the Ministry of Agrarian Development delivered in some localities a fertilizer produced in Peru by coastal birds, called guano from the islands, however the demand is much higher. Among the agreements signed in Huancayo, the minister of that sector, Óscar Zea, promised to increase the production of said fertilizer fivefold (and reach 100,000 tons per year) to sell it at a “social price” in the domestic market, and reduce the volume dedicated to export to 11%.
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On Thursday, President Castillo questioned the mobilizations and the office of Prime Minister Aníbal Torres tweeted that “transporters have the right to strike, but they cannot affect property or block roads because these acts constitute a crime.” The statement inflamed the Huancainos even more. While the ministers, the cardinal and the representatives and leaders of the farmers and carriers were talking in a Huancayo coliseum, the protest was maintained outside, in some peaceful streets, but in others, with much police repression.
At noon on Saturday, Castillo apologized for his expressions on Thursday, and offered dialogue to resolve the demands. “Today has been the most difficult day. There are 14 detainees so far: outside the coliseum there were vandals and vagrants who took advantage of the situation. There are six police officers injured. “Colonel César Ramos reported to EL PAÍS. On the civilian side, the local press reported 11 wounded in the Carrión Hospital and four in El Carmen. The volunteer medical brigade member, José Manuel Velázquez Pasmiño, received the impact of pellets in one of the eyes and his prognosis is not favorable.
Castillo, in the last hours, tried to appease the spirits through Twitter: “Some statements in this sense have generated a misunderstanding and if I have to clarify them by apologizing or forgiving the people, I will do it a thousand times because I never have bad intentions and because I come from that quarry of the fight ”.
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