By Pablo Fernandez Cermeño
Lima, Dec 22 (EFE).- Anti-government protests have begun to fizzle out in the Peruvian capital in the lead-up to Christmas, with street selling back in full swing and vendors looking to recover some of what they invested in this year’s holiday season.
In the streets adjacent to Abancay Ave., which runs to the Congress building and has been the focal point of recent demonstrations in Lima, sellers like Henry told Efe Thursday that they have taken an economic hit from the clashes between security forces and some protesters.
“(Sales) fell quite a bit. What I sold only covered my (bus) ticket and something to eat. I haven’t been able to save over the past few days,” the young man said while holding six pairs of slacks that he manufactured himself and is looking to sell in downtown Lima.
Henry lamented that the country’s “political problems” caused a drop in revenue during the busy Christmas season, noting that his sales typically decline in January.
He was referring to occasionally violent demonstrations that erupted following the ouster and arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo for “breaching the constitutional order” on Dec. 7, hours after he had announced the dissolution of the legislature and plans to hold elections for an assembly to craft a replacement for the constitution enacted during the 1990-2000 authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori.
The protesters are demanding the resignation of Castillo’s successor Dina Boluarte, early elections, the shutdown of Congress, the release of the ousted president and the installation of a constituent assembly.
At least 27 people – including five minors – have died nationwide in the protests, although none of those fatal incidents occurred during the disturbances in Lima.
Henry said he steered clear of downtown Lima during the demonstrations “because it’s very dangerous.”
But another vendor, Sandra, said she continued to sell Santa Claus dolls in the center of the capital even when clashes involving demonstrators and National Police officers were occurring just blocks away.
She said sales have been “very low” due to the disturbances and that she has had to accept extremely thin margins in a bid to merely recoup what she invested in the Christmas season.
“120 (soles), love,” she told one potential buyer, an amount equivalent to about $30 that is far below her target price. “And this one is 110.”
Alicia, a street toy vendor, estimates that she lost nearly 2,000 soles ($525) when she was forced to close her stall in recent days.
To help sellers recover their losses, Production Minister Sandra Belaunde told local media Thursday that security will be tightened in Lima’s Gamarra garment district.
“This is a very important time for street sellers and large business leaders,” she added.
In that section of Lima’s La Victoria district, Victor also lamented the lack of demand for his gift-wrapping services but said that sellers need to capitalize on the pre-Christmas lull in the protests.
Likewise, Adrian said he hopes the bike store where he works will sell “much more than usual” in the coming days, noting that more people are frequenting the establishment and placing orders more quickly.
Even so, with Christmas just around the corner, time is running out for street vendors and store owners who have seen their normal holiday selling season reduced to a bare minimum. EFE