Cusco shutdown – strike day 2

The second day of Cusco’s 2 day (almost) general strike, on 26 February, started early and much the same as the first: roads blocked early and transport shut down, leaving us all a car a free city; quiet across town except for exploding fireworks, drums, whistles, and air-horns.

By 10am groups of organised strikers, and community groups/associations, marching behind their banners, were converging on and then criss-crossing the city. Today we also saw more informal groups of 20 to 80 strikers roaming the streets enforcing the strike – by turning back cars trying to pass through or closing commercial premises that had tried to break the strike.

About 11am the planned strike rally in Cusco’s main square, Plaza de Armas, had begun. Groups of strikers & supporters passed through the square, with a rep from each group speaking briefly from the informal stage (top of steps in front of church). Their was much anger and passion, but theatre too – effigies and coffins of politicians burnt, flags flown, songs sung. An hours rain failed to dampen events, and the marchers kept coming. Many were in traditional dress again, and we also noted a slight increase in the numbers of ‘white’ or ‘Spanish’ Peruvians.

After the rally bad been on for a good 90minutes, we noticed a strong increase in the numbers of riot police around the square, several carrying the sort of weaponry you don’t see in the UK. We tried and failed to fathom the reason for this, but having seen similar tactics in the UK, it did make us a bit twitchy! In the event the rally continued and then closed without any major incident that we saw.

It looked like 2-0 to the strikers to us, even if the late afternoon saw some businesses re-open, and some vehicles reappear on the streets. The strike was big news on local and national TV, and we heard the workers organisations had given the government until Monday 3 March to engage in talks…or else. We’ll be gone from Cusco by then, but send all the strikers/campaigners our very best wishes. Salud!

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