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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
Death in Peru violence
Justice Palace worker arrested in Lima
State of emergency gives police right to arrest protesters

At least one person has died and more than 70 been injured in clashes across Peru following the imposition of a state of emergency, according to reports.

A student was killed when officers opened fire on a group of protesters occupying university buildings in the southern town of Puno, said officials. There are also unconfirmed reports of another death.

At least 95 people have been arrested since the state of emergency was imposed on Tuesday night to contain strikes by teachers, farmers and health workers.

The protesters have been pressing for pay increases, which the government says it cannot afford while implementing austerity policies agreed with the International Monetary Fund.

In the capital Lima, police in riot gear turned water hoses on protesting court workers at the national justice palace.

Hospital workers in the city of Barranca say 20 people were injured as troops fired in the air to disperse a crowd of rock-throwing farmers demanding tax cuts.

More unrest was reported from Chiclayo, where several teachers were arrested, and in the city of Huanco, where many shops brought down shutters to avoid looting.

Hospital on alert

Soldiers were unblocking roads in the cities and armoured vehicles were sent to guard public buildings.

The rector of the university in Puno, on the edge of Lake Titicaca, denounced what he called excessive use of force by the authorities that led to the deaths of two students.

Democracy [does not mean] people can destroy the peace and interrupt the freedom of movement
Prime Minister Luis Solari
Puno's regional hospital has been put on "red alert" to cope with the number of casualties - some said to be in a serious condition - said director Isaac Manzaneda.

President Alejandro Toledo said he was forced to call a 30-day state of emergency to protect the public's fundamental right to lead a normal life following the wave of strikes.

"We are responsible for defending this democracy we got back at such a high cost," said Mr Toledo.

More than eight million children have not been in school for more than two weeks after teachers began their strike in mid-May.

Rights suspended

The state of emergency suspends civil liberties and gives police the authority to detain protesters and enter private residences to round up suspected leaders without warrants.

Freedom of movement and rights to assembly are also prohibited.

The teachers have vowed to continue their action, but the farmers and health workers have suspended their strike.

Correspondents say the protests add to the problems of the president, whose popularity has slumped to a new low after two years in office.

Armoured vehicles are guarding plazas across Lima
Armoured vehicles are guarding plazas across Lima

In April, thousands of Peruvian coca farmers marched into the country's capital, Lima, demanding that the government end restrictions on growing the cash crop, which is used to make cocaine.

This is the second time Mr Toledo has resorted to emergency powers.

Last June he imposed a state of emergency in parts of the country after at least one protester was killed and several hundred injured during street protests at government plans to privatise two regional electricity firms.

Prime Minister Luis Solari said democracy did not give strikers the right to cause disruptions to public order.

"Democracy is one thing, and another thing is the understanding that democracy means people can destroy the peace and interrupt the freedom of movement," Mr Solari told RPP radio.

Thirty-six people were injured - 16 police officers and 20 civilians - and 95 arrested in clashes around the country on Wednesday alone, according to Interior Minister Alberto Sanabria and Health Minister Fernando Carbone.

The BBC's Andrew Webb
"Security forces are under order to break up protests"

In pictures: Peru strike
28 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Press attacks emergency action
28 May 03  |  Middle East
Peru's coca farmers accept truce
05 Mar 03  |  Business
Coca growers protest in Peru
26 Feb 03  |  Business
Peru minister quits amid unrest
20 Jun 02  |  Americas
Protests over privatisation in Peru
15 Jun 02  |  Americas

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