García’s presidential retinue stoned in Puno

Local residents of the southern border city Juliaca hurled rocks and rotten fruit at President García’s his eight-car caravan on Tuesday, shattering windshields. Garcia was not harmed.

A rock did strike Wilber Cerpa Quispe, chief of Peru’s national food aid prgram, PRONAA, in the face, but he reportedly escaped serious injury.

The president had traveled to Puno Department, one of Peru’s southeastern provinces, to launch a rural electricity program and to hand out 16,000 property deeds to local community members. Despite tight security, the convoy was attacked in the Pedro Vilcapaza area.

Garcia’s Aprista party blamed followers of the outspoken leftist regional president of Puno, Hernán Fuentes, for inciting the local population and provoking the assault. One suspect was arrested.

Ernesto Quispe, a local correspondent for Radio Pachamama, said the protesters were angered by fast rising prices for basic staple foods. Peru’s annual inflation topped 4.9 percent last month, hitting a four-year high.

García’s retinue were not delayed long by the attack, and shortly afterwards reached the Taraco district. His electricity program is set to benefit 3,600 local citizens from Taraco’s Collana community.

From there, the presidential entourage continued on to the Samán district in the Azángaro province to donate more than 1,600 sheds to help shelter livestock from the cold. The Puno area has been suffering from extreme temperature drops since last year, resulting in the deaths of livestock and the threat of local farmers’ livelihoods.

“There are few places like the Samán basin, where people are concerned about the sheds, do their work, build their future,” Garcia told reporters. “I can see they’re determined and where there’s determination we provide support.”

Another purpose of García’s trip was to review the implementation of the free trade zone along the border with Bolivia, and the Inter-Oceanic Highway, currently being constructed to promote trade between Brazil and Peru. In response to multiple delays and hitches, Garcia called on Fuentes’ regional government of Puno for “more work and fewer arguments.”

“The best way to show you are a good ruler is by completing public works”, he added.

Fuentes is a strong supporter of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, the network of cultural centers, which many Peruvian lawmakers believe are ideological fronts for President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to meddle in Peru’s internal affairs and promote a regional revolution.

Congress is reviewing possible criminal charges against him alleging mismanagement and corruption. Fuentes contends the allegations are politically motivated and denies any wrongdoing.

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