Radio Programas: Farmers strike suspended after two days of violent protests leave 4 four dead

A top farm federation leader called on his followers late Tuesday to end a violent two-day national strike that claimed the lives of four people, disrupted highway transit and prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights in seven provinces, Radio Programas reported.

Enrique Málaga, president of the National Assembly of Users from Irrigation Districts in Peru, told Radio Programas that a national assembly of union leaders in the capital, Lima, had decided to suspend the protests and seek further dialogue with President Alan Garcia’s administration.

He called on farm workers throughout the country to maintain calm and trust in their union leadership to find solutions to their problems.

“We are communicating with our grass-roots bases so that in the morning things will return to normal,” Málaga was quoted as saying.

The strikers are demanding, among other things, the restructuring the agriculture sector, compensation for farmers ahead of the implementation of the free trade agreement with the United States, and decreasing the price of fertilizers. Other demands include the rejection of water privatization and Law 840, known as the Law of the Jungle, which encourages private investment in deforested areas of Peru’s Amazon.

But Agriculture Minister Ismael Benavides said all of those points were covered in negotiation meetings last week that ended with signed accords. “They have unnecessarily exposed thousands of Peruvians to delays, inconvenience and robberies,” he told Radio Programas.

Protesters set up roadblocks of tree trunks, rocks and burning tires along the length of the Pan American Highway north of Lima, and on several highland arteries. One protester was killed during a confrontation with police after he was reportedly struck by a tear gas cannister that knocked him down a 30-foot embankment. Two other farmers from the village of Quinua were shot to death outside the southern highland city of Ayacucho by police who were trying to prevent protesters from torching a gas station, Radio Programas reported. A fourth protester was reportedly killed Monday in an exchange of gunfire with passengers on a bus stranded by the roadblocks.

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