Social upheaval in Peru culminated July 13 with President Alan Garcia calling upon the armed forces to join 15,000 national police in attempting to quell nationwide protests organized by the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers.

Teachers protesting low pay and school privatization closed 70 percent of the schools. Mineworkers, coca growers, construction workers and small farmers carried out strikes, highway blockades and mass rallies in opposition to lax labor law enforcement, the U.S free trade agreement, the privatization of pensions and high mining profits.

Garcia’s approval ratings have dropped from 63 percent to 42 percent over the first year of his presidency. Peru’s poverty rate is 50 percent.

Quoted by the Mercosur news service, Mario Huamán, general secretary of the labor federation, condemned the army’s involvement as “a sign of authoritarianism, to keep control through repression, in conformity to what [Garcia’s] political allies require of him, the political right and the economically powerful.”