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Peru Teachers Extend Walkout

June 5, 2003

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The Peruvian government failed to meet wage demands by striking teachers, who vowed Wednesday to extend a 24-day walkout that triggered nationwide protests and prompted President Alejandro Toledo to declare a state of emergency.

The government has been negotiating with teachers to defuse the strike, but ``there are still controversial topics,″ teachers’ union leader Nilver Lopez told Radioprogramas radio network Wednesday.

Local radio reported that thousands of teachers held peaceful marches in Ayacucho, 205 miles southeast of Lima, and in Huancayo, 125 miles east of the capital.

A day earlier, tens of thousands of teachers, trade unionists and university students around Peru marched demanding an end to the state of emergency declared a week ago, which put the armed forces in charge of restoring order.

The estimated 300,000 public school teachers want a $60-a-month raise, but the government published a decree Tuesday giving teachers only about half that amount. On average, Peruvian teachers earn less than $200 a month.

The nationwide protests have created the worst political crisis for Toledo since he took office in July 2001.

The 30-day state of emergency declared by Toledo on May 27 bans demonstrations and authorizes police and soldiers to forcefully clear strikers from Peru’s major highways.

On Thursday, violent clashes between soldiers and protesters in Puno, 530 miles southeast of Lima, ended in the shooting death of one university student and dozens more wounded.

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