Peruvian farmworker protests: Harvests hindered as exporter says 'grapes are going bad'

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Peruvian farmworker protests: Harvests hindered as exporter says 'grapes are going bad'

As protests by farmworkers continue in Peru over workers’ rights and better wages, hundreds of trucks and tractor-trailers carrying fresh fruit were stranded along the key Pan-American Highway south of Lima.

The demonstrations, which have been going on for days, spread north into key agricultural areas of the Andes, hindering harvests of some crops, crippling transport of produce and leaving at least one dead, Reuters reported.

The interim President of Peru, Francisco Sagasti, said the death of the protester was a “tragedy” and told reporters there would be an immediate investigation into the casualty.

“We do not want anyone to die in protests to defend their labor rights,” Sagasti said.

Protests last month led to the death of two young people in Lima and to the resignation of Manuel Merino, the previous President of Peru whose term lasted for five days in November.

Farmworkers alleged police had attacked protesters to clear roadways and subdue the demonstrations, which spread northwards from the country’s south into growing regions of table grapes, blueberries and tangerines.

“The workers […] have been attacked by the police who have arrived in great numbers to prevent them from continuing to block the road,” said Juan Herrera, a national leader of agrarian workers.

Workers from Campsol, a major fruit exporter, joined the conflict on Thursday. Farm laborers from agro-exporter Talsa announced they too would join the protests on Friday.

“All activities have been paralyzed, there are no harvests, there is nothing. Grapes and asparagus are going bad, we are in the middle of the season for these two crops,” Fernando Cilloniz, a grape exporter, told Reuters.

Peru is a major global exporter of blueberries as well as grapes, avocados and asparagus.

Negotiations between the government and protest leaders have failed to reach an agreement, though lawmakers have committed to reviewing a decades-old agriculture promotion law that farmworkers view as unjust.

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