LIMA, Peru -- (AP) -- Thousands of anti-government protesters armed with
clubs and stones broke through a police cordon around the presidential palace in
the heart of Lima on Wednesday and a smaller group forced its way inside.
About 60 demonstrators battled through police lines all the way into the
one of Peru's most violent protests in recent years. Some spray-painted
``Dictator!'' on the stone walls of the palace courtyard, while others broke
furniture in inner offices.
President Alberto Fujimori was in his office at the time, but protesters
reach him, a palace spokesman said.
Police fired shots in the air and lobbed tear gas to disperse the estimated
demonstrators, representing Peru's main unions and student groups.
Police arrested at least five people, and one bystander was injured in
the leg by a
firecracker, Radioprogramas radio station reported.
The General Confederation of Peruvian Workers, the country's largest labor
federation, called the rally to protest government policies the unions say have left
many people out of work.
Students and unionists also marched in major cities in the provinces of
Trujillo, Arequipa, Ica and Puno.
University students joined the march in Lima to protest the erosion of
democratic institutions. They charged that Fujimori has trampled Peru's
constitution and laws to pave the way to run for a third consecutive term in 2000.
Congress President Victor Joy Way urged calm and said the protest was an
attempt to destabilize the state.
Polls show that Fujimori's popularity has fallen in recent months, with
about one in
three Peruvians approving of his performance.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald