Posted by: Ali | January 27, 2010

Strike!

I had an interesting experience on the bus last week – I was riding and when it came time to pay the fare, the worker overcharged me noticeably.  Since I am a foreigner this happens from time to time, and the thing to do is to prove you know how much the bus should cost by arguing a little and threatening to get off the bus.  However, in this case he was overcharging everyone and someone asked why.

He said that there was a “paro” – a strike – and that the bus drivers were planning on going on strike so that day they were charging extra for people to ride the bus because the drivers didn’t want to work.  The next day, he said, they would not be working.  I hadn’t heard of this method of striking before, so I thought it was kind of interesting.

I asked Ana Maria about it and she said it was only the long-distance bus drivers that were going on strike, not the regular buses.  That made a certain degree of sense, as the bus I was riding was to a town on the outskirts of Lima called Chosica, which is supposedly a “resort town” but in reality it is where some of our neediest placements are.  Theoretically it could be counted as a different municipality than Lima, and therefore long-distance.

I did a bit of research and found out what the bus companies are striking for – they want to be exempt from the taxation that the government puts on gasoline, but the government refuses to give them more than a 30% credit.

I initially thought the bus strike wouldn’t affect me, because I didn’t have any plans in the near future to go travelling.  In fact, I thought there might even be a perk if I did feel like travelling – the government had an immediate response to the strike by announcing more frequent and discounted flights and train service.  But then I started to realize how important the buses were for the economy of Peru.

The price of fresh fruit and vegetables has noticeably increased in the past week, and that’s because the farmers can’t get their crops to Lima by bus.  They have to seek other methods of transportation, or the sellers in Lima have to import crops from other countries.  If this strike lasts for long, the whole economy is going to get confused, since food is a pretty basic necessity of life.

With the bus strike on, the cancellation of the train running to Machu Picchu, and the crazy flooding in the highlands, this is really not a good time to visit Peru, sadly.  Ironically, it’s been in the past week or two that I have really started to appreciate everything this country has to offer and I firmly believe that it is a super place to visit!


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