Peru protests move from countryside to Humala's doorstep
By Mitra Taj
LIMA (Reuters) - After struggling for months to defuse protests against mining companies in far-flung provinces, President Ollanta Humala is now facing strikes in the capital by teachers and doctors who want a piece of Peru's record fiscal surplus.
Thousands of teachers from two factions of the national teachers union marched in Lima on Wednesday to demand big wage increases after a decade without raises, while many of the 14,000 doctors who work for the Health Ministry participated in a walkout that has meant patients have to wait in long lines.
Humala tried to forestall the teachers' strike by sending a bill to Congress that would reform pay scales, but the legislature has yet to act and he has not been able to persuade impatient union members to stay on the job.
"This is in the hands of Congress. We hope they resolve it as soon as possible. The ball is in their court," he told reporters on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, after police clashed with rock-throwing teachers and doctors pushed through a police cordon at a hospital, a frustrated Prime Minister Juan Jimenez said, "The strike makes no sense."
The protests in Lima have put renewed pressure on Humala after the president enjoyed several weeks of relative quiet following a cabinet shuffle he carried out in July to calm anti-mining strife.
Humala's approval rating has hovered around 40 percent for the past three months after falling from highs of more than 60 percent when he took office.
Pay increases for doctors depend solely on Humala's cabinet and do not need congressional approval. Continued...