Peru’s largest labor union turns down government’s offer to call a truce during upcoming APEC Summit

Peru’s largest labor union, the National Confederation of Workers, or CGTP, turned down the Peruvian government’s offer to call a truce to head off protests during the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit to be held in Peru’s capital, Lima, November 19-22.

This is not about calling a “truce,” CGTP Vice-President Olmedo Auris told daily newspaper La Primera, because in Peru there is “a real situation of hunger, injustice, and loss of purchasing power.”

“The people and workers are dissatisfied and fed up with this situation, which is generated by the government, its authoritarianism, arrogance and insolence,” he said.

“Should we all pretend as if Peru were a grand theatrical play produced to please foreigners?” Nationalist Party Congressman Isaac Mekler was quoted saying by daily El Comercio. “Is that what (Del Castillo) is asking for? This is not acceptable. If he wants Peru to put forth a better image, he must allocate a budget that corresponds to the fundamental necessities of Peruvian citizens.”

García’s top Cabinet minister Jorge Del Castillo, fearing the opposition will take advantage of the arrival of heads of state from the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, Canada and South Korea to generate disturbances and public disorder, made the offer over the weekend.

“If we are going to receive our visitors with strikes, trouble and burning tires, then this is an antipatriotic attitude,” ” Del Castillo said on Saturday.

“Everyone has the right to protest and do it within established law,” said Jaime Cáceres, the President of Peru’s Confederation of Private Entreprises, or Confiep, in comments to state news agency Andina. “But hurting Peru’s image during an event as important as the APEC Summit is, definately, a anti-Peruvian act.”

“I think the issue has been politized,” he added, “if the workers have something to demand, well, they don’t have to wait until the Summit for that. They can do it any other day during the year. This attitude is definitely determined by a political undercurrent and has nothing to do with social or labor issues.”

But, according to Auris, the government is “trying to run from its responsibilities by making it look like the workers are conspiring and attacking governability.”

“But with hunger and abuse there is no truce.”

Peru’s Ombudswoman, Beatriz Merino, reported that 161 social, environmental and political conflicts had been registered in Peru during the month of August, of which 113 were active and 48 latent. Since last week, 17 additional conflicts broke out in Lima.

Protest organization is already well under way for October and November, Auris argued, and the climax of these protests will be the People’s Alternative Summit — in parallel to the APEC Summit —  during which politicians, trade unions leaders, NGOs and citizens will get together.

A rally, protest or march is also in the works, argued CGTP President Carmela Sifuentes, to coincide with the arrival of the U.S. President for APEC.

“We aren’t opposed to dialogue,” added Sifuentes, “but (the government is) always postponing making a commitment with agreements. They can’t use this discourse as blackmail. They call us communists, terrorists, Chavistas, (but) our protests are peaceful and for just causes such as the rising cost of life, the violation of rights and the discharge of workers.”

On July 9 Peru President Alan Garcia faced nationwide mass protests called by the CGTP against his political and economic policies as thousands of Peruvians, including construction workers, teachers, miners and merchants went on strike, organized marches and blocked highways under the watchful eye of police and military.

The strike, which came amid economic growth close to 10 percent, was called to protest the Peru’s free trade agreement with the United States, the rise in the cost of living spurred by subsidized U.S. agricultural products, the criminalization of social protest and to demand better working conditions.

Protesters asked Garcia to do more to spread the wealth generated by Peru’s economic boom.

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