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Peru: Analyzing the Motives behind Violence at La Parada Market

On the afternoon of October 25, a series of violent acts occurred in Lima that the city has not been witness to in years. An operative from the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima, along with support of the National Police, placed cement blocks [es] at the intersection of Aviation Avenue and July 28 Avenue to prevent supply trucks from entering the wholesale market La Parada that is currently being moved. Clashes [es] between approximately 2000 traders, informal workers and security personnel, along with over 100 police officers followed.

Local television released shocking images [es] of a police officer that was beaten by vandals after falling from his horse. These vandals were part of a group of people, some carrying firearms [es], that impeded the operation and resisted [es] the police that can be seen in these images [es]. Violence continued until that night as local businesses were looted in the neighboring area of Gamarra, the textile clothing emporium of Lima.

The toll of the operation was two deaths and 108 injured [es], 66 of whom [es] were police officers. The few concrete blocks were removed and the supply trucks entered the market [es] that functioned normally during the morning and attended to the public [es] the following day. The public prosecutor that visited the area concluded [es] that there are none of the necessary guarantees to proceed with the operation.

La Parada

La Parada, Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of Flickr user fokus Lima (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

These events were widely reported, disseminated and discussed on Twitter where the hashtag #LaParada [es] became a trend in both Peru and worldwide [es]. But it wasn't the only hashtag that was used. Mayor Susana Villarán could not be found anywhere in the country during all the chaos and prompted the hashtag #DondeEstaLaAlcaldesa [es] (#WhereIsTheMayor).

Facebook and blogs also addressed the issue. For example, the journalist Dante Castro, on his blog La fruta del cercado ajeno (The fruit outside the fence), provides some insight [es] about the complex environment that is the wholesale market La Parada.

Alrededor de los grandes negocios de prósperos comerciantes, se teje una extensa red de intercambios que involucran a muchas personas y familias. Estas personas viven en los alrededores de La Parada y han constituido sus diversos sistemas de vida en torno a ella. En esa galaxia de constelaciones de intereses económicos, tenemos a pequeños comerciantes, vendedores ambulantes, reducidores, recicladores, estibadores, trabajadores, guachimanes y… ladrones, asaltantes, proxenetas, traficantes de drogas y alcohol barato, etc. Los ricos pueden aceptar mudarse a Santa Anita, pero los pobres y marginales no.

Around the big businesses with their wealthy merchants, an extensive network of exchanges involving many people and families is woven. These people live near La Parada and have formed their various ways of life around it. In that galaxy of constellations of economic interests, we have small merchants, street peddlers, receivers, stevedores, laborers, watchmen and…thieves, muggers, pimps, drug and cheap alcohol dealers, etc. The rich can accept moving to Santa Anita, but the poor and the marginalized cannot.

Santa Anita is the new wholesale market that is currently being put into motion. To this end there have been countless studies, dialogues [es] and delays that come even from the previous municipal administration that built the market. And although at first glance the market has many advantages [es] over the current one, not everyone is convinced [es] by the way things are being done, and not just the merchants and workers that are affected. On the blog TV Bruto, Julio Gómez commented [es]:

Sancionarán al comerciante que venda al menudeo, por kilos, por unidad, como actualmente se vende a cualquier persona en La Parada. El Nuevo Mercado de Santa Anita es solo para compradores acreditados por EMMSA, o sea, para “amas de casa” de monedero extra ancho:

La gente pobre, ya no podrá acceder a este mercado, porque el monto mínimo de compra es S/.2000 por producto, ¿a dónde irán ellos?, a un intermediario, elevándose así los costos.” [Comentario LR]

They will penalize the merchant that sells at retail price, by kilos, per unit, like products are currently sold to any person at La Parada. The New Market in Santa Anita is only for EMMSA accredited buyers, or rather, for “housewives” and their extra wide purses.

        “Poor people, who can no longer access the market, because the minimum purchase amount is S/.2000 (USD$800) per product, where do they go?, to a middleman, and the prices increase.”  [Comment from La República [es]]

It is obvious that many interests are involved in the movement of the wholesale market. Another point that is not so clear is the outcome once the land that La Parada currently occupies is vacated. While some say that it will continue to operate as a market on retail level, the city mayor stated [es] they would build a park and the district mayor has plans to build hotels [es]. The Facebook page Lugares Comunes (Common Places) delves a bit deeper [es] into the issue:

La prensa ha venido cubriendo el tema como un conflicto entre ‘buenos’ (los que quieren la reubicación) y ‘malos'. Se ha insistido sobre los intereses de quienes no quieren moverse, pero no se ha dicho casi nada de los intereses de quienes quieren que el terreno del mercado en La Parada cambie su uso (los ‘buenos'). Hay rumores sobre la venta de ese mercado, pero se ha investigado muy poco.

The press has been covering the issue as a conflict between ‘the good’ (those in favor of the relocation) and ‘the bad'. They have insisted on the interests of those who do not want to move, but they have said almost nothing about the interests of those who want the land that La Parada is situated on to change its use (the ‘good'). There are rumors about the sale of that market, but very little has been investigated.

However, returning to the issue of violence, the execution of the operation has been harshly criticized. Although it was not an eviction, in practice, knowing that the merchants were holding vigil [es] since Wednesday the 24 to prevent the blockage, it was logical to anticipate that some form of violence would occur, even more given the socioeconomic situation in the area. Furthermore, there was no warrant of fiscal support [es] for the operation.

On the blog Voz Liberal del Perú (Liberal Voice of Peru), Dante Bobadilla said [es] indignantly from a political position opposing mayor Villarán:

La Parada

La Parada, Lima, Peru. Photo courtesy of Flickr user fokus Lima  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

La zona de La Parada es sumamente densa por la cantidad de negocios de todo tipo que se concentran en varias cuadras de calles y avenidas aledañas. Por eso está permanentemente llena de multitudes. Pero además es una zona donde existen edificios multifamiliares donde vive gente de escaso nivel cultural que apenas se ganan la vida como ambulantes, estibadores o ladrones al paso. Así que llegar allí un día de semana a las 4 de la tarde a cerrarle el paso al mercado mayorista de La Parada con bloques de concreto, es un acto que ya ha pasado al registro de acciones más estúpidas hechas en la historia de la humanidad.

The area of La Parada is extremely dense because of the number of businesses of all types that are concentrated on several blocks on surrounding streets and avenues. That is why it is permanently filled with crowds. But it is also an area with multifamily buildings where people live at a low cultural level that barely make a living as peddlers, stevedores and thieves on the street. Therefore, getting there on a weekday at 4 in the afternoon to close off the wholesale market of La Parada with concrete blocks is an act that has already surpassed the record of the most stupid actions in the history of mankind.

Meanwhile, El Blog de Binario (Binary Blog) posted [es] on their Facebook page some things that, in their opinions, need to be discussed and clarified in regards to what happened at La Parada:

4. El alcalde de La Victoria ha informado en entrevista que muchos de estos vándalos han sido contratados por 100 soles. 5. Susana Villarán no se encuentra en Lima, no por capricho sino porque su nieto ha tenido una operación de emergencia pero ya estará de regreso en Lima hoy viernes. ¿Quieres que el caos y el desorden en medio de delincuencia siga reinando en La Parada? ¿Sí?, adelante, entonces culpa de todo a Susana Villarán.

4. The mayor of La Victoria has reported in interviews that many of the vandals were hired for 100 soles (around USD$40). 5. Susana Villarán is no where to be found in Lima, not on a whim but because her grandson has had an emergency operation but she will return to Lima on Friday. Do you want chaos and disorder amidst crime to continue reigning at La Parada? Yes?, go ahead, then blame it all on Susana Villarán.

The truth is that coincidentally or not, it was a terrible day for the mayor because that morning she discovered that the minimum requirement of signatures to request her recall [es] had been obtained. On his blog, writer Gustavo Faverón comments [es] from this perspective:

desde hace por lo menos cuarenta años está claro que La Parada es un foco de criminalidad, manejado por mafiosos, que vive completamente al margen del sistema legal peruano, comenzando por el rubro más básico en cuanto a comercio se refiere, que es el sistema impositivo. [...] (Villarán) es la primera autoridad en nuestra historia que coge el toro por las astas, diseña un plan alternativo y trata de ponerlo en práctica.

A nadie debería sorprender, de hecho, que las acciones de Villarán sean combatidas inmediatamente por una banda lumpen de asesinos a sueldo reunida por un grupo de comerciantes mafiosos, y, al mismo tiempo, por gente de las filas del aprismo, el fujimorismo y Sendero Luminoso.

For at least forty years La Parada has been a center of crime, run by mobsters, that live completely outside the Peruvian legal system, starting with the most basic area of business, the tax system. . [...] (Villarán) is the first authority in our history to grab the bull by the horns, designing an alternative plan and trying to put it into practice.

No one should be surprised, in fact, that Villarán's actions are immediately combatted by a band of underprivileged murderers for hire brought together by a group of merchant mobsters, and, at the same time, by people from the ranks of APRA, Fujimori, and the Shining Path.

It remains to be seen how much the mayor will deal with the recall process and with what happened at La Parada. Public opinion seems to see clearly that the administration made a mistake but also that moving the wholesale market is something that should happen no matter what. Although the following day there were thousands of police officers in the area, apparently ready to carry out the operation that was cut short, at about 7pm on Friday, October 26, they retreated from La Parada [es] without taking any action.

Original post [es] published on Juan Arellano's personal blog.

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