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Striking Peruvian Teachers Defy State of Emergency Order - 2003-06-05

A nationwide teachers strike in Peru continues with demonstrations in defiance of a government state of emergency order, but negotiations are continuing.

The government and the teachers' leadership carved out a tentative agreement after a massive demonstration Tuesday. But the agreement has yet to be finalized. Teachers are asking for a $60 a month increase while the government is offering half that.

Now the government has authorized the Economy Ministry to make budget cuts to raise the offer. The major opposition party APRA has proposed cuts in the congressional budget as well, amounting to around $100 million.

The head of the teachers union, Nilver Lopez, acknowledged that progress has been made but they are waiting for action in the congress.

"We know that the economy, budget and education committees have made this a priority,"He says, "and that they understand that the demand for the raise is justified. So this week the approval of various laws is decisive."

Bishop Juan Bambaren is acting on behalf of all the political parties as a facilitator between the government and the teachers. He said he was disappointed that the teachers union leadership had not signed the accord Wednesday morning, as he had been led to believe they would.

He says, this shows a lack of respect for the country and the eight million students in the country as well as a lack of respect for all the people who have supported them, the parents who came out for them and the students who supported their teachers.

In Peru's southern coastal city of Ica, teachers swept the streets, symbolically asking that corruption be eliminated to provide more resources for the schools and in the city of Huaraz in the Andean mountains, a popular mountain climbers' destination, teachers marched, joined by retired teachers.

There was some hope expressed by the Peruvian teachers union leader, however, as he held out the possibility that classes could resume next Monday.