July 4, 2006

Peru farmers clash with police in US trade protest

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Thousands of farmers, some holding
pictures of Cuban Revolutionary hero Che Guevara, blocked
highways and clashed with police on Tuesday to protest a U.S.
trade deal that they say will ruin them financially.

Police used tear gas to disperse rice growers who blocked
roads and burned tires near Peru's border with Ecuador, while
road blocks by farmers in southern Peru caused hundreds of
buses and trucks to back up along the main regional highways.

Hundreds of people marched in downtown Lima to decry the
trade deal as a "felony against the nation," while farmers
blockaded streets with rocks in Peru's second city, Arequipa.

"This accord has been negotiated behind the backs of the
Peruvian people," Antolin Huascar, head of Peru's national
farming association CNA, told Reuters. "U.S. agriculture is
subsidized but in Peru there's no farming policy ... and we
always end up losing."

Peru's Congress and outgoing President Alejandro Toledo
last week ratified the free-trade deal with Washington, paving
the way for its approval by U.S. lawmakers. Toledo plans to fly
to Washington on Friday to urge legislators to ratify the
accord before an August U.S. congressional break.

The government says the deal will create 80,000 jobs from
2007 and will increase economic growth by 1 percentage point
every year, boosting exports to the United States, Peru's top
trading partner, to $9 billion in 2010 from around $6 billion

Farmers counter the accord will cause 1.5 million job
losses and say they cannot compete with subsidized U.S. goods
such as corn syrup, a cheaper sweetener than sugar used in soft