Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Youth Protest in Lima


On Monday I headed downtown to buy some books.  My trip  there coincided with a march convened by
 numerous youth groups  in one of Lima's central squares, the Plaza San Martin, in order to.march in a show of their rejection of the recently-enacted Youth Labor Law.

Known derisively as the "Pulpin Law" after a brand of fruit juices meant for infants and toddlers, Law No. 30288 provides incentives for businesses to hire youth 18-24 years of age who haven't previously had formal employment or who have not had it in the previous 90 days.  How?  By making their employment exempt from payment of Compensation for Time of Service (money deposited periodically by the employer into a special account, that workers can then use as retirement savings or unemployment insurance), life insurance, hazard pay, family stipends, and twice-yearly bonuses, all of which are mandated by law for other regular employees.

To the apparent surprise of the Humala administration, the youth have roundly rejected the law as discriminatory and have argued that it is actually an attempt to mollify the entrepreneurial sector after two years of slowed economic growth by making it possible to incur those cost savings in up to 25% of their labor force and to receive an additional tax break for doing so.

The march was scheduled to start at 6 pm. The police presence was notable, but it was also evident that they were making an effort to have a lighter touch than the had displayed toward another such march on the 18th, after which the police were accused of inciting trouble after being video recorded charging the marchers with horses and dousing them --and holiday shoppers-- with tear gas.

These young ladies were clearly excited to be there and smilingly asked me
to take their picture

At this march the police were on deployed on foot, and sans side arms and without their usual allotment of tear gas launchers.  They also deployed a larger number of female officers, genteelly outfitted in white cotton gloves.

That "lighter" touch, however, did not prevent the Minister of the Interior, Army General Daniel Urresti, from showing up at a pre-march concentration at a park some distance away from the plaza, and blustering that anyone causing "disturbances" would be dealt with harshly, as well as suggesting that marchers would be banned from wearing backpacks or head coverings, and even that all participants would have to present their national ID and register with the police beforehand.  Those statements earned him a quick rebuke from the head of the president's Ministerial Council.


The march got going promply at 6 o'clock --under the watchful eye of a couple of drones-- with marchers streaming out of the plaza and down Nicolas de Pierola (a.k.a La Colmena) Ave., west down Garcilazo de la Vega (a.k.a Wilson) Ave., and then down Salaverry Ave., and past the Ministry of Labor.

"When the Law is Unjust Protest is a Duty"
An energetic group of young anarchists made up the tail end of the march as it left the plaza:

"If No One Works In Your Stead, No One Should Decide In Your Stead...
No Union or Party Bureacracy; Workers' Free Association!"   

  Later, on my way home from the bookstores, I found that the march had continued past the Ministry of Labor and was now heading down Arequipa Ave. toward the upper middle class and heavily commercial district of Miraflores, passing through the districts of Jesus Maria, Lince, and San Isidro on the way, and disrupting traffic for many blocks.

March proceeding along the two westbound lanes of Ave. Arequipa

I decided to leave my taxi and accompanied the march for a number of blocks at that point, but as I neared home, I decided to continue on my path there.   During my time with the march --which had by now swelled to at least 10,000 and covered a nearly a dozen blocks-- I witnessed many shows of support for the youth, from drivers honking in rythm wiith the chants, passersby clapping for them, and people coming to their windows and balconies to cheer them on.

Large police contingent accompanies the march
The marchers, I saw later on  the news, then gathered and rallied in Miraflores' Kennedy Park. The entire protest lasted some 6 hours, and --despite an attempt to divert the march by a group that managed to split off a contingent along a different avenue-- it went on without incident. 

There was a group that gathered in the Plaza San Marti and who were dispersed and repressed by the police after a brief street battle.  While this was going on the main demonstration was across town, but that hasn't stopped the conservative and pro-business media from trying to smear the protests as violent, or to make ominous pronouncements about "infiltrators".

No comments: