• Short Summary

    Tanks and Air Force helicopters patrolled sectors of the Peruvian capital of Lima on Tuesday (23 May), after five people were killed in riots on Monday (22 May).

  • Description

    Tanks and Air Force helicopters patrolled sectors of the Peruvian capital of Lima on Tuesday (23 May), after five people were killed in riots on Monday (22 May). Eyewitnesses reported renewed clashes in a number of suburban slum districts, where avenues were blocked for the second day running by makeshift barricades. Civilians fought with police, but retreated at the arrival of tanks, each one carrying eight heavily-armed soldiers. The violence coincided with a 48-hour general strike, ordered by Peruvian labour union to protest against a series of government austerity measures. On Saturday (20 May) President Francisco Morales Bermudez had declared a state of emergency. He then went to television to address the nation.

    SYNOPSIS: General Morales spoke for seventy minutes from the Presidential Palace in Lima.

    He blamed the state of emergency on agitators, on both the left and right, and said the action had been taken by the government to combat subversion. The state of emergency came after food-price riots, in which 12 people died. Constitutional guarantees were suspended, and political magazines banned, but General Morales pledged that the military would hand over to an elected government. He also hinted that general and presidential elections could take place before their scheduled date in 1980.

    On the country's economy, General Morales warned that if negotiations with international financial bodies failed, further measures would have to be taken. He made no direct reference to the general strike, but asked Peruvians to think about the country's economic crisis. The austerity measures, which sparked off the riots, were he said, aimed at restoring Peru's economy. Observers took his reference to international financial bodies to mean the International Monetary Fund, the I.M.F., with which Peru has had fruitless negotiations over eight months for a standby credit. The I.M.F. has made strong measures a condition for granting the credit.

    Speaking about Peru's election prospects, General Morales said that, if the Constituents Assembly, to be elected on the 18th of June, worked out the country's constitution within a year, the date of general and presidential elections could be brought forward. Campaigning for elections to a Constituent Assembly, however, has been suspended. Commenting on this, London's Financial Times newspaper says it could have a profoundly unsettling effect on Peruvian politics, and may tempt General Morales's rivals to bid for power, and thus imperil Peru's precarious stability.

    The current crisis in Peru, is the worst to face the country since the 56-year old General Morales took over from the more radical General Juan Velasco following an internal coup within the armed forces nearly three years ago. Reports say the General was near to tears during his broadcast, when he begged forgiveness from the Peruvian people for the economic hardship he had to impose on them.

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