Friday, June 26, 2009

Back to Normal (sigh of relief)


Things are back to normal here in Andahuaylas--garbage collection, buses, shopping all day, school in session. Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief.

Yesterday the garbage truck took the last of the eight bags of garbage that had accumulated during the 13 days of the strike.

The settlement came Tuesday when the Prime Minister Yehude Simon came to Andahuaylas, along with the Minister of Agriculture. Mike and a group of Kausay members and pastors met to pray during the negotiations, as did other Christians throughout the city.

The last night was tense as a group of criminals that had infiltrated into the ranks of the strikers went around the city breaking car windows and robbing drivers. However, 7 pickups with police sharpshooters came in the morning to maintain order and make sure that the rioters had all left. I never saw them on the streets after their arrival, but they were there just in case.

The government met the campesinos' demands to pave the highway and not privatize the airport or Laguna Pacucha, the large and beautiful lake, as well as provide tractors for the area. The strike is technically suspended until September, when the paving should start. If it doesn't .....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strike!

Andahuaylas has been the scene of a 7-day strike now, and the rumors are that the strike will last until next Tuesday. Really strike is not the right word for it, although that is the translation. We would call it a riot or a demonstration.

What has happened is that 10,000 of the poor country farmers, the campesinos, have invaded Andahuaylas and are marching through the streets with sticks, whips, flags, and protest signs. If a business is open, they race at it to beat the owner for not demonstrating solidarity.

Mike was even beaten by one of them--a tiny little old lady who thought when he was unlocking the street door to the apartment he was unlocking a business. Fortunately, she didn't pack much of a punch! He thought someone was tapping him on the shoulder.

The city is paralyzed, with no buses or planes in or out. Several days ago a truce was declared that allows the market to be open from 6 am until 8 am.

So far there has been no major violence or looting. The only victims of the strike that we know of are a baby whose mother miscarried because she could not reach the hospital, and two youths who were nearly killed when they fell from bicycles onto streets covered with glass. (One was saved by the first vascular surgery performed in the hospital here.) Both sides, police and strikers, are trying to avoid bloodshed--but among the strikers are some bad elements who are out to extort money and break glass on the streets, etc.

The goal of the strike has changed several times. It began to show sympathy with the victims of the violence in Bagua, where rioting resulted in deaths both of policemen and tribespeople. Then it changed to an indefinite strike with the goal of forcing the president to resign. Now the Struggle Committee has published a list of demands, including the repeal of several laws and the completion of works projects in the native communities.

Among the strikers are campesinos compelled to participate by threats of violence and fines from local bosses of the communities. Christians are also caught up in this. One pastor friend was corralled into a group by the threat of violence and forced to walk to Andahuaylas, where he escaped when the group's attention was elsewhere.

We are doing okay--eating a lot of beans and tuna! We weren't able to go to church on Sunday because of trucks parked on our street with armed men, but we have been able to go to choir practice and pick up some food during the truce hours. Homeschooling goes on (sorry, Chris!)--the other kids are off school, but can't go out in the streets for most of the day to enjoy it, so some are studying at home to beat boredom.

Please pray for a peaceful end to the situation. For cool heads and wisdom on the part of the strikers and the government. For courage for the Christians caught up in the mob. For our safety. And for a solution to the underlying injustices and misinformation that have caused all this.

God bless!
Tammy