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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 04:19 GMT 05:19 UK
Peru hit by major workers' strike
Rally in Lima
Some protesters burned effigies of Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo
At least 76 people have been arrested in Peru during a 24-hour strike against the free market economic policies of President Alejandro Toledo.

Many of the arrests were made in the capital, Lima, where police used tear-gas to disperse protesters who tried to block roads with tyres and logs.

The strike was declared a success by Peru's largest union, the CGTP.

But the government said the protest had failed because people were working and public transport was functioning.

Peruvian Interior Minister Javier Reategui claimed only half of all transport services in Lima had been affected by the strike.

He said police had confiscated a large number of rubber tyres to stop protesters from setting fire to them.

In central Lima, one union leader told a cheering crowd that reports from around Peru suggested 90% of workers supported the strike.

More than 85% of the population is demanding Toledo to go... the voice of the people is the word of God
Mario Huaman
CGTP workers' union

Peru's former President, Alan Garcia, the country's main opposition party leader, suggested that Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero and his cabinet should consider resigning.

The BBC's Hannah Hennessy in Lima reports that for many the protest has become less about economics and more about trying to undermine the authority of Mr Toledo - the region's least popular president, with the support of less than 7% of Peruvians, according to recent polls.

Although Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, half the population lives on $1.25 a day.

People are angry at the president's failure to fulfil his election promises to create more jobs and stamp out poverty, our correspondent adds.

Many said could not afford to strike - if they took to the streets, they would have no money to feed their families.

'Inflitration fears'

More than 150 unions - from teachers to construction workers - had signed up for the protest.

The communist-led General Workers' Union of Peru estimated that some 300,000 people would take part in protests.

But that the numbers seems to have been overestimated, our correspondent says.

The strike comes as Peru tries to cope with hundreds of visitors to an international football event - the Copa America - stranded by the grounding of a local airline.

The Aero Continente airline was banned from flying on Monday after the government alleged its planes were not insured and the US announced it was investigating the firm for ties to the drug trafficking trade.

Some 93,000 police were deployed across Peru to deal with any unrest.

Peru's government said army and riot police units had been enlisted because of fears that the demonstrations might be infiltrated by guerrillas from the outlawed Marxist rebel army, the Shining Path.

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Country profile: Peru
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