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  • Police repress agricultural workers during a protest in Viru, Peru, Dec. 29, 2020.

    Police repress agricultural workers during a protest in Viru, Peru, Dec. 29, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 31 December 2020
Opinion

The police harshly cracked down on agricultural workers who continue to block the Pan-American highway in protest for better wages and working conditions.

Peru's National Police Tuesday killed two young men while trying to halt a farmworkers' protest in Viru, Lambayeque region.

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The Ombudsman's Office confirmed that Kanuner Rodriguez, one of the deceased, was only 16 years old. Four other protesters and six police officers were injured.

Anti-riot agents repressed the protest with tear gas canisters to clear the Pan-American Highway, which was blocked by protesters for the third day in a row. The circumstances of the two deaths are under investigation.

The violent incident occurred amid the successive protests by farmworkers in rejection of the new Agrarian Law. They keep the country's main highway blocked to demand a wage increase and better working conditions.

"Stop criminalizing protest! I condemn these deplorable acts and demand the end of police brutality. Those responsible will be punished. No more deaths!" Congress President Mirtha Vasquez tweeted.

The conflict, which has already left four people dead, intensified when Congress approved a new agricultural labor regime on Tuesday. This law imposes a 30 percent bonus over the minimum wage for the sector's workers. 

The new rule satisfies neither employers nor farmers, who do not want a bonus but an increase in their fixed salary.

In Peru, Farmers worked eight hours a day, with no rest, for US$11 a day. The new law increased the daily salary by US$2.5, rising wages up to US$13.4 per day. 

Farmers' principal demand is to increase the minimum salary to US$20 per day. This proposal is not supported by employers, who argue that a wage increase will affect about 2,000 businesses and 200,000 jobs.

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