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Peruvian President Declares State of Emergency


Responding to a wave of strikes by teachers, farmers and state health workers, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo has declared a nationwide state of emergency, suspending some civil rights and declaring the nationwide teachers shutdown illegal.

Faced with increasing strikes and and the specter of food supplies being cut off from Lima, the president decided to take a hard stand and declare a state of emergency in what is expected affect half the country. "I've decided to give the internal control of the country over to the armed forces, aided by the national polic," said Mr. Toledo. "We've decided to reopen the schools and open the roads."

The state of emergency will suspend civil rights such as the right to public meetings, the right to home privacy and the right of movement. Tuesday, the state health workers joined the teachers, justice system personnel and thousands of farmers. And, there have been signs retired police might also strike, which would complicate police actions against the protesters.

The wave of strikes comes in the wake of a march on Lima of hundreds of growers of the coca plant, protesting government plans to curb the crop, and a strike by Peruvian teamsters.

What seems to have sparked the government's drastic action was police intelligence, published in a local newspaper, predicting that some 30 new protests, marches and strikes were planned in the next two weeks.

The teachers union has led the current rash of strikes. Reacting to President Toledo's campaign promise to double salaries during his term, teachers -- who make less than $200 a month -- are demanding a raise of around $30. The government maintains it can only afford about a $15 raise. Farmers want the sales tax lowered from 18 to three percent.

The president says he will continue a dialogue with the protesters, but that he will not break fiscal austerity or what he has labeled the "straight jacket" of International Monetary Fund accords.

The State of Emergency will continue for 30 days.