Civil groups to protest against US troops in Peru (Lead)

June 2nd, 2008 - 10:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Prensa Latina
Lima, June 2 (Prensa Latina) Non-governmental organisations in Peru have called for a general strike to protest against the government’s decision to allow US troops helping the civil administration to carry arms. Earlier, the government had urged the US troops to help civil administration construct water-wells and classrooms in the country’s restive southern province of Ayacucho where illegal armed groups operate.

The government’s decision has been criticised by the opposition politicians who say the authorities have bent laws to allow foreign soldiers to carry guns.

Opposition combine Ayacucho Defence Front has announced that the strike will take place July 8.

Around 70 US soldiers have already been deployed and 350 more are expected to arrive.

Front chairman Iver Maravi said protesters would demand the withdrawal of the foreign troops, as its presence goes against the country’s law.

Defence Minister Antero Flores-Araoz said the government’s decision is justified in view of the presence of the armed groups in the region where the US troops are to work.

Antero, while responding to the criticisms by Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) leader Ollanta Humala, said the foreign troops are here to help the government and since the area is disturbed, the troops may be allowed to carry arms for self-defence.

Humala said such missions do not justify carrying guns. He said Peruvian engineers and constructors could do the work.

The ruling party and conservative groups in the Congress had approved the entry of US troops to Peru.

The opposition fear the US troops might open a military base in Peru.

Army chief Gen. Edwin Donayre said the US troops would only perform humanitarian tasks and would not set up military base in Peru.
Prensa Latina

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