Wednesday the 21st of May 2003 – Day 92
I got up at 11.00am and saw the owners of the hotel glued to the telly. There was live coverage of a full scale riot taking place three blocks down the road. Hmm, What the hell. I decided to investigate. There was a summit of 15 South and Latin American leaders taking place this coming Friday. Taken from Associated Press .
“Police launched tear gas on several occasions to push back hundreds of protesters trying to enter the Plaza de Armas. In another part of the city, police arrested 17 strikers who had blocked roads and were throwing rocks at passing cars. “This summit is a farce,” union leader Florencio Jurado said through a megaphone amid protesters near the main square. “The only thing that interests them is privatizing our country, selling our wealth,” she said of the presidents. The presidents of 15 nations are expected to attend the summit, opening Friday. In a press conference in Lima, Interior Minister Alberto Sanabria said peaceful protests would be permitted, but promised to crackdown if things turned violent. Gen. Eduardo Perez, the director of Peru’s national police, said 2,300 extra police have been sent to Cuzco, while army troops had been deployed to secure and control access to the Andean city’s airport.
On Monday, hundreds of teachers sat down on the railway used to carry tourists from Cuzco to visit the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, forcing the train company to cancel service. The striking teachers have also threatened to interrupt a summit of Latin American presidents from the 19-nation Rio Group, which opens on Friday in this city”
I stayed away from the protests as much as possible but decided to take a few shots. As soon as I did, police threw teargas cannisters at the group I was with.
The use of tear gas raises some serious health and human rights issues. The type of gas used by police was o-chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile, often called “CS gas” or just “CS”.
CS gas, along with its relatives, CN and CR, consists of crystals which vaporize at high temperature. CS irritates the skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract, causing severe discomfort, pain, or, in high concentrations, asphyxiation. Proponents of continued use of CS note that when “used properly” (i.e. outdoors, in low concentrations), it is effective in dispersing crowds without causing permanent damage.
A European Union report on crowd control technologies (available in pdf goes into greater detail, noting that extended exposure to CS can cause, in ordinary terms, “victims to die by drowning in their own lung fluids” and “severe blistering”. More simply, exposure to CS even in low concentrations raises blood pressure, which can be a serious risk to people over 30 or those with heart conditions.
CS is not the only substance delivered by tear gas canisters. Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), is used as a solvent for CS, which is normally in crystal form. MIBK has a number of effects, including headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. It has not been established whether MIBK is carcinogenic. “ Another good article here.
It was not a nice feeling. Your eyes run water, you feel terrible. I wasn’t too bad after a mouthful of water and a splash of same to the face, but I saw many people getting sick or doubled over. Enough of that, as I had promised to meet Damien and Paul in Paddy O Flaherys for the Celtic V Porto UEFA final. When I got there, they said no place in Cuszo was showing it because it was on Satellite and the pubs hee only had cable. I checked with the other “Irish” and “English” pub in town – same story. Went back to Paddy´s and met Paul, Damien, Faith and the two American girls (we invited them) from last night called Vanessa and Stephanie. Faith had got off the train last night at a later stop where you could get a 15 minute bus to Cuszo. She had leant this on the tain but couldnt tell us. We didnt kill her there and then. Forgive and Forget 🙂 She had got back at 8.30pm. Nevermind. It was an experience. We had a great time having a few beers watching the scene from the balcony. We could see the police (riot police) holding back the protesters from the plaza. We got match updates from the bar staff. Good time had by all until the final result came in (3-2) all thought I was proud Celtic they had got to the final. We stayed there until about 6.00pm. Faith was catching a bus to Bolivia at 10.00pm. We said our good byes. I called it a night as we were well on. Visitied a NET cafe to download photos from the camea and burn them onto a CD-R.
Nice story how about farmers in Peru are using the Inca method of farming again.