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Peru: Strike in Iquitos in Protest of Corruption

The permanent problems and chaos [es] in the city of Iquitos and the continuing complaints [es] of corruption in the Regional Government of Loreto have led to various protests [es] by the people and civil society [es].

The most recent of these protests was on May 15, 2013, after the Patriotic Front of Loreto organized [es] a 24 hour strike demanding that the regional president and vice president, Yván Vásquez Valera and Luis Lozano Escudero, vacate their posts because of suspected acts of corruption.

The newspaper La Verdad Iquitos indicated [es] that one of the reasons for this strike was the role that the Judicial Power was playing in the following cases: “The actions of Judge Nataly Maldonado asking the Public Prosecutor to return the sewage system documents belonging to the OPIPP (Public Agency of Infrastructure for Productivity) which were confiscated, and the conduct of Judge Alina Peixoto, in the case of the agrarian credits, are all that was needed for people to begin to react, first with a 24 hour strike.”

The strike began even before midnight, the time when protest activities normally start in Iquitos, with groups in support of the strike patrolling the city, ensuring that it was being observed. Diana Vela (@dianatshow) [es], a law student, reported on her Twitter account at 10.30 pm on May 14:

@dianatshow: Okait, comienzan a romper botellas y quemar llantas, aun faltando hora y media para el “PARO” #iquitos

@dianatshow: Okay, they are starting to break bottles and burn tires, even though there is still an hour and a half left before the “STRIKE” #iquitos

This led to conflicts with law enforcement, after disturbances [es] in front of the house of the President of the Regional Government, as Carolina Gomes (@llinijoplin) [es] informed on Twitter:

@llinijoplin: La Policia Nacional acaba de lanzar 15 bombas lagrimogenas en una marcha pacifica. ¿Alguien dijo corrupcion?

@llinijoplin: The National Police just launched 15 tear gas bombs on a peaceful march. Did someone say corruption?

Facebook user Pedro Esquibel [es] shared a foto of the central Plaza 28 de Julio at that time:

Imagen del paro regional en Loreto. Foto compartida por Pedro Esquibel en Facebook.

Image of the regional strike in Loreto. Photo shared by Pedro Esquibel on Facebook.

The strike was observed [es] by the majority of people in diverse sectors [es] of the city, and on the afternoon of May 15 there was a protest march [es] made up of members of the Patriotic Front of Loreto, representatives of other organizations and diverse sympathizers. After returning to the house of the Regional President, where they burned banners as a sign of protest, they joined together again in the Plaza 28 where they performed some symbolic acts of protest.

Journalist Nancy Alarcón (@NancyAlarconCho) [es] reported on Twitter:

@NancyAlarconCho: Acaba de llegar la capilla ardiente para velar a la Ley que ha muerto en Loreto, Poder Judicial la asesino! La corrupcion vive.Paro en Iqui

@NancyAlarconCho: The funeral chapel is here to hold a vigil for the Law which has died in Loreto, and the Judicial Power is the killer!  Corruption lives.Strike in Iqui

Ricardo Miguel Garcia Pinedo [es], a young activist from Loreto, uploaded some photos of the protest:

Foto compartida por Ricardo Miguel Garcia Pinedo en Facebook.

Photo shared by Ricardo Miguel Garcia Pinedo on Facebook.

Foto compartida por Ricardo Miguel Garcia Pinedo en Facebook.

Photo shared by Ricardo Miguel Garcia Pinedo on Facebook.

For his part, Iván Vásquez Valera, President of the Regional Government, commented [es] to a local media source that the strike was “led by politicians who would like to reinforce negative attitudes in a new electoral campaign”, and that these politicians do not have arguments for the debate. At the end he added that “We can debate, but with dignity. Not offending or insulting others, calling them thieves, corrupt, or other names.”

Among those tweeting from Iquitos, the feeling about the strike was not uniform either. Communications student Percy Meza (@alexiankernel) [es] commented on what the result of the strikes is to him:

@AlexianKernel: Viendo los videos de lo que dejó el “paro” de 24 horas en Iquitos. Montículos increíbles de basura. Qué lamentable, en serio.

@AlexianKernel: Watching the videos of what the 24 hour “strike” in Iquitos left. Huge piles of trash. What a shame, seriously.

And from Lima, journalist Jaime Cok (@InO_MoXo) [es] reflected with disappointment:

@InO_MoXo: El paro en #Iquitos se redujo a que los políticos jalen agua para su molino y que turistas se tomen foto con el ataúd simbólico de las leyes

@InO_MoXo: The strike in #Iquitos was reduced to politicians using the situation to their advantage and tourists taking pictures with the symbolic coffin of the law

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the president of the Board of Public Prosecutors, Dr. Mario Alberto Gallo Zamudio, declared [es] that “the people of the Loreto region are meeting their civic duty which is contained in the Constitution of Peru, and that in this period of time it is a democratic law-based state”, adding as well that “the Public Prosecutor continues steady in his work, and justice will have to be applied no matter what, within the established legal framework, requiring those who are responsible to answer, in accordance with the proof that is gathered.”

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