April 28, 1999
National strike in Peru tests Fujimori's support

                  LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- For the first time since he took power nearly a
                  decade ago, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori faces a powerful national
                  strike Wednesday organized by leftist unions but supported by a broad
                  range of other groups, from opposition parties to business organizations.

                  "Who doesn't have a complaint with this government?" said Nora Loredo, a
                  leader of women's organizations which planned to march through Lima on
                  Wednesday banging empty cooking pots.

                  She said that even the president of the National Society of Industries -- a
                  powerful business group -- was supporting the strike.

                  "They are up to their necks too," she said as she prepared to join a
                  candlelight vigil with other women Tuesday night outside the National Palace.

                  The strike was called by the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers
                  (CGTP) to protest Fujimori's economic policies and the possibility that he
                  might run for a third term.

                  Police to guard workers

                  The government has responded by ordering 20,000 policemen into the
                  streets to protect workers who defy the strike call. It also put the armed
                  forces on alert for possible violence.

                  Fujimori labeled the strike organizers "communists" and Labor Minister
                  Pedro Flores declared the strike illegal.

                  "Only those who have full wallets have the luxury of not working," Flores
                  said, warning workers that they would forfeit their salaries if they did not
                  show up to their jobs.

                  Peru's unions have been weakened by anti-labor legislation under Fujimori.
                  But with the government's economic reforms doing little to generate jobs or
                  reduce poverty, organized labor has gained renewed energy.

                  Earlier inflation: 7,000 percent

                  When Fujimori took office in 1990, he inherited an economy coping with
                  hyperinflation of 7,000 percent. His free-market policies tamed the inflation,
                  while his success in putting down the long-running revolt by the Maoist
                  Shining Path rebels boosted consumer confidence and encouraged
                  investment from abroad. As a result, Peru's economy grew by a scorching
                  32 percent between 1993 and 1996.

                  But the policies have had a cost. Privatization of state industries has left tens
                  of thousands of people unemployed. Much of the outside investment pouring
                  into Peru has gone into activities such as mining and oil, which rely heavily on
                  technology and do not generate large numbers of jobs.

                  In addition, a two-year recession -- exacerbated by massive damage done
                  by the El Nino weather phenomenon -- has hit retailers and manufacturers
                  hard, forcing more layoffs. According to private-sector surveys, more than
                  50 percent of the workforce now works in the informal economy.

                  Will Fujimori run again?

                  Even the moneyed classes now complain about Fujimori's policies. Vacant
                  signs dot offices in Lima's business and upscale shopping districts.

                  "Today there is agreement between bosses and workers that the economy is
                  not functioning for either of them," said political analyst Nicolas Lynch.

                  Fujimori has not said if he plans to run for a second re-election in April
                  2000. Although Peru's constitution allows presidents only one re-election,
                  his backers in Congress have approved a controversial law paving the way
                  for such a bid.

                  In recent months he has crisscrossed Peru, visiting even remote areas of the
                  Andes and the Amazon jungle to deliver what sound like campaign

                           The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.