Peruvian Protesters Fight Police In Rowdy March

Arm The Spirit (
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 00:17:08 -0400 (EDT)


Peruvian Protesters Fight Police In Rowdy March

June 5, 1997 By Andrew Cawthorne

LIMA, June 5 (Reuter) - Stick-wielding and stone-throwing protesters clashed with Peruvian police in Lima on Thursday during a second day of street protests against President Alberto Fujimori's administration. The violence began when several thousand demonstrators who converged in downtown Lima surged toward Congress, where riot police were lined up to block their way, witnesses said. Some of the protestors hurled stones and used heavy sticks to beat police, who responded with tear gas, dogs and horse charges. At least one policeman was injured, the witnesses said. It was the largest recent protest aimed at Fujimori's government, whose traditional popularity has slipped on his perceived autocratic approach to government and failure to address Peru's widespread poverty. The protests were an embarrassment to Peru as it hosted the 27th assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which was winding down on Thursday. "Down with the dictatorship!" shouted students, workers and opposition politicians who united to march against the government's recent dismissal of three judges on the nation's highest constitutional court. The government-controlled Congress' removal last week of the judges, who were blocking a possible third election bid by Fujimori, has unleashed a wave of protest in Peru. "The people at last have risen up to say 'enough' to an abusive and arbitrary regime. This is the response that the people give to the OAS so that it knows what really goes on in this country," said opposition legislator Antero Flores. Demonstrators banged drums and waved communist flags. A coffin with the names of Fujimori and his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, was kicked to pieces. In the first official response to the protests, Peruvian Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela said they were proof of freedom of expression in Peru. "There are lights and shadows ... as in every society in the hemisphere," he said at the closure of the OAS assembly he chaired. "However, beyond those shadows there remains the absolute conviction that freedom of expression is unrestricted." The political atmosphere soured after a brief period of euphoria following the end of the four-month Lima hostage crisis provoked by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Critics say Fujimori took advantage of a brief popularity rise following the military's killing of the MRTA hostage-takers and release of the 72 captives to move against the Constitutional Tribunal.

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