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Peru Police Fear Riots in Capital

June 18, 2002|From Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — Police deployed armored vehicles and squads armed with automatic rifles in the capital Monday to prevent the spread of unrest tied to last week's sale of state-run companies.

While the armored vehicles patrolled the Pan American Highway, armed police mounted the road's pedestrian bridges.

Meanwhile Monday, protests over the privatizations spread to Tacna, about 600 miles southeast of Lima, said city security official Hector Garcia.

Rioters broke windows at a branch office of Telefonica, the Spanish firm that bought Peru's state telephone company in 1994, Garcia said. They smashed public telephone booths and blocked the Pan American Highway leading into Chile.

Protests began Friday in Arequipa--Peru's second-largest city, about 130 miles northwest of Tacna and 465 miles southeast of Lima--after officials in the capital auctioned two electricity companies based in the Arequipa and Tacna regions to a Belgian firm.

Demonstrators fear that privatization will lead to job cuts and electricity rate hikes.

Peru's government Sunday declared Arequipa and the surrounding region to be in a 30-day state of emergency under military rule.

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