Thursday, July 9, 2009

Waiting Out the Bus Strike in Arequipa

About 2 weeks ago, the transportation workers in Peru declared a strike to protest the new government laws that are going into effect to more tightly regulate driving activities. They have tighted rules for bus drivers and greatly increased fines for violating the rules.

Originally the strike was scheduled for 3 days, July 7-8-9, but some cities decided to strike only for 2 days. We debated whether to try to rush to Cusco before the strike started, but we decided that we liked Arequipa and La Case de Los Pinguinos (our hotel) so much that we'd stay here.

Though the outskirts of Arequipa are very poor and ugly looking, the tourist area downtown is very nice and safe. So we have spent the last few days resting up, enjoying the great internet here, walking around town, and watching the protests.

It turns out that the protests are only a little bit about the new transportation laws. Much of the rhetoric we heard was back on the old theme of the government giving away land rights to 'tribal lands' to foreign mining companies. This has been a simmering problem ever since the agreement was signed last year.

Unfortunately, though Arequipa is only on strike for 2 days, Puno, a city we have to go through to get to Cusco, is on strike for 3 days. We were going to leave yesterday afternoon, assuming they would get tired and go home at 5pm. But before we left the hotel, we heard from several sources in Puno that they were going to keep the barricades up until 10pm. So we decided to stay in Arequipa until this morning. Another

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