Court Orders Lima to Reopen La Parada Market

La Parada - retailersThe city of Lima’s relocation of a large, wholesale market from its original downtown site suffered a setback on Tuesday following a court order to reopen the market.

Judge Malzon Urbina, head of the 56th criminal court of Lima, argued in a 61-page ruling that the city’s municipal government did not comply with due process when it ordered the market to be closed and relocated late last year. He also said the city discriminated against workers at the market.

Mayor Susana Villarán has called the court order “sabotage against the city of Lima,” while Interior minister Wilfredo Pedraza also came down hard on the ruling, saying it is “an affront to police sacrifice,” recalling the instigated violence during the relocation process.  Members of Congress are also protesting the order, and lawmaker Luis Iberico said it was an example of why “not to trust the justice system in Peru.”

The La Parada market, located in a grimy neighborhood in downtown Lima, was shut down in October and wholesalers were relocated to a new facility in the district of Santa Anita in the eastern outskirts of the city off the Carretera Central.

La Parada - violenceThe relocation had been on the drawing board for 40 years, and the new facility was finally built in 2009 by Mayor Luis Castañeda (who initially postponed the construction for two years and then also postponed the relocation).  The overcrowded La Parada market was not only unsanitary but overrun by criminal gangs and lacked safety measures in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or earthquake.

The larger wholesalers were moved successfully to Santa Anita, and the municipality signed a contract with 2000 smaller stall holders for their transfer to an adjacent site.  But many middlemen and anscillary businesses around La Parada opposed the move.

La Parada - Santa AnitaSince the move, according to deputy mayor, Fernando Zegarra, the wholesalers are selling six tonnes of produce per day, 50 percent more than they did at La Parada.

Efforts to shut down the market in October sparked violent riots. Four people were killed when protesters, many later arrested and charged with acting as hired thugs, took to the streets to burn tires and pelt police officers with stones. Televised images showed some police pulled from their horses and dragged through the streets. Police have since maintained a presence around the market to prevent cart vendors from returning.

However, Judge Urbina has ordered the police to be removed from the market along with large concrete slabs that block vehicle access to La Parada.  One of his arguments is that the La Parada land was donated to the city by the Canepa family in the 1940s so that the city could build a wholesalers market —the Municipality legal department argues that the market was not a condition for the donation.

The ruling has quickly come under fire by authorities that say it could result in more confrontations and undermine reforms to clean-up the sprawling Peruvian capital.

“This ruling is an attack against the rule of law,” said Mayor Villaran.  “I’ll fight with every effort, with the law in hand, and with justice in hand to prevent the return of chaos and disorder,” she added.

According to Carlos Rivera, coordinator of the legal division at the Legal Defense Institute, IDL, the court order, which must be appealed at a higher criminal court, is also unconstitutional and Judge Urbina should be investigated by the magistrates’ control office, OCMA.    

According to Mayor Villaran, who learned about the court order through the press, Urbina has been investigated several times by the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of unlawful enrichment.

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