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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Peru police evict market traders
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Thousands of Peruvian riot police have stormed a huge market in Lima to dislodge stallholders and traders who the authorities accuse of squatting.

The operation was the culmination of a month-long standoff during which officials tried to eject families they say had moved onto the land illegally.

Police, some mounted, others in riot gear, moved in at dawn.

Overwhelmed by police numbers, the traders left the site in east Lima they had occupied for five years.

After weeks in siege-like conditions and despite having vowed they would resist to the last, the traders left without a fight.

Allowed to pack their bags, the traders - mainly women and children - were forcibly evacuated, losing not only their jobs but also in many cases, their homes.

The mayor of Lima, Luis Castaneda, had said the traders were illegally occupying the land which belonged to the local authority.

Last week, the government declared a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights in the Santa Anita area of east Lima where the market is located.

Informal sector

Tensions grew by the day as the tradespeople blocked the gates of the walled market, and the authorities accused them of using their children as human shields.

But following a court order, the police were given the authority to use force.

The traders, numbering some 10,000, complained they had been treated as criminals and that some of them had been tricked into buying the land.

The police said they had found evidence that people had hired children to use on the front line of the protest.

Thousands of people migrate to Lima from poorer Andean or Amazon regions of Peru seeking a better life and they often build their own houses or businesses.

Around three-quarters of Peruvians work in the informal sector, and as with these ejected traders, they cannot expect to fall back on the state.

Country profile: Peru
12 May 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Peru
28 Apr 07 |  Country profiles

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