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Peru: Two Million workers and peasants strike against Toledo
IN THE early hours of 28 May Peru's president Alejandro Toledo declared a 30-day state of emergency, suspending democratic rights, to prevent workers striking over low pay and high taxes. Armed forces have already shot dead a student protester and injured many others. ANDRES ARAVENA of Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI - Chile) reports on Peru's social upheavals.
ALMOST TWO million Peruvian workers and peasants are on indefinite strike demanding higher wages and lower taxes. Teachers, peasants, health workers, the judicial employees, social security employees, building workers, have all joined the strike and protests
The economic and social bankruptcy and the failure of the governing elite to solve the most urgent problems facing the mass of the population have provoked an explosive strike by the working class and the most downtrodden which has paralysed the country.
In all of the main regions of the country mass, violent protests have broken out. The state of emergency has only enraged workers on strike.
They are fighting Toledo's 'neo-liberal' policies of privatisation and looting of the natural resources of the country by the multinational companies, as demanded by the IMF and Washington.
A corrupt elite and poverty for the masses
ALBERTO FUJIMORI [Peru's president in the 1990s] was a nightmare for the working class and poor and Toledo is no different. There is massive corruption in government institutions, parliament, the judicial system, armed forces and the church. 80% of the population are now opposed to Alejandro Toledo - the same proportion that now are opposed to the parliament and judicial system.
In Peru, 54% of the population now live below the official poverty line. Poverty has driven more than 2.5 million workers out of the country in economically enforced emigration. At the same time 80% of the wealth of the country is concentrated into the hands of only 2% of the population.
According to official figures 530,000 workers are unemployed and 2,821,000 under employed. The World Bank estimates that 45% of the urban population is working in the 'informal sector', ie street sellers. The crushing poverty of the majority and the wealth of the ruling class are the main ingredients for Peru's social explosion.
The most brutal effects of the economic crisis is seen in agriculture and amongst the peasants. No agricultural product is profitable apart from the coca leaves which is used to enrich the drug traffickers and which are also controlled by the state and the banks.
The country's natural resources are estimated to be sufficient to feed 25 million people each year but the agro-economy is in total ruin. On 58% of cultivated lands the 'chaki taclla' is still used as the main tool. This is a wooden instrument developed in the epoch of the Incas and driven by foot power!
No solution under capitalism
PERU IS a clear example of the historical failure of the parasitical capitalist and landlord classes to develop the national economy and raise the standard of living of the working class, the peasants and especially the indigenous peoples.
The most repeated promise in the election campaign of Toledo was "the change". But this government has changed nothing and has now put the military on the streets to repress the demands made by the workers.
While capitalism continues the poor, the working class and the peasants will continue suffering conditions of misery living under the boot of the local political elite and imperialism.
The current struggles in Peru have shown once again that the working class has the cohesion and strength to fight to change its conditions of life.
However, if concessions are won through struggle, given the capitalist crisis, it will be only for a short time before the ruling class return to further attacks including the use of military repression.
The only alternative is to establish a government of workers and poor peasants with a socialist programme whose first measure would be to take control of production, nationalise the major national and international monopolies under democratic workers' control and management, refuse to pay the foreign debt and break with the IMF, imperialism and capitalism.
A socialist Peru, with an appeal to the working class and other oppressed peoples of the continent to finish with neo-liberal governments and capitalism and begin the construction of a Socialist Federation of Latin America is the answer to the current crisis.
IN 1990 10 million Peruvians lived below the poverty line. By 2000 this had grown to 14 million. Of these 24% live in 'conditions of extreme poverty'.
Around 50% of the population are either unemployed or under-employed and 55% try to survive on only $1.25 a day.
25% of Peruvian children under five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition - in the rural areas this figure rises to 40%!
Some reports estimate that of the 6.8 million rural inhabitants 78% live in poverty, of which 67% live in conditions of extreme poverty.
In the rural areas; 52% of houses do not have toilets installed, 68% of schools have no drinking water and 95% lack toilets, 90% of schools have no electricity supply.
UNICEF estimated in 2000 that every year 100,000 students abandon primary schools and that in secondary education this figure rises to 200,000.
Two million children are forced into child labour to supplement the family income.
THIS IS the second time that Toledo has resorted to emergency powers since winning the presidency in July 2001.
In June last year, a general strike and mass protests erupted across the country after the government sold two state-owned electricity generating companies in Arequipa to a Belgian firm.
A state of emergency was declared and police set about protesters injuring hundreds and killing one person.
In The Socialist 7 June 2003: