Agricultural workers in Peru are blocking the highway to protest police violence, demanding higher wages
Hundreds of agricultural workers maintained a blockade of the main Pan-American highway in northern Peru on Thursday to protest the deaths of three people in collisions with police.
The workers are demanding an increase in wages and are also opposed to a new agricultural bill passed by Congress last week.
Authorities said three people, including a minor, were killed in clashes with police.
One of the victims died during the transfer to hospital after being held up by the barricade.
The clashes have left 28 protesters and 36 policemen injured, while 45 agricultural workers have been arrested.
Protesters are blocking part of the Pan-American Highway about 500 kilometers north of the capital Lima, where they had already been on strike since the beginning of last month.
TV images showed police using tear gas and bird shots at protesters.
Workers are angry over a bill passed by Congress on Tuesday.
They had demanded that agricultural export companies increase their daily wage from $ 11 to $ 18, but the bill only proposed an increase to 48 soles, about $ 13.
President promises to “sanction” the police
In an attempt to calm tensions, President Francisco Sagasti promised to “sanction police who did not respect the ban on the use of firearms” against protesters.
“We regret and reject what happened in La Libertad. We condemn those who encourage violence,” he said on Twitter.
Sagasti also proposed a dialogue to find a solution to the problem after acknowledging that the congressional bill “did not satisfy either party.”
“Congress approved an agrarian marketing law that does not meet any of the parties involved. I will convene a national agreement forum to discuss the future of the agricultural sector and other measures,” he said.
In response, the workers had agreed to block the highway to begin dialogue on Friday, Prime Minister Violeta Bermúdez announced.
The government also announced an investigation into the deaths during the protests, saying the chief of police in the La Libertad region would be removed.
Rural work protests over wages and conditions have been a feature of the Peruvian political scene in recent weeks. Since the protests broke out, there have been five deaths.