News Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN0838828020090708?sp=true
LIMA, July 8 (Reuters) - Thousands of Peruvians marched and piled boulders on highways across Peru on Wednesday to protest the pro-business policies of President Alan Garcia, a day after he bowed to pressure to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Garcia, whose approval rating is 21 percent, has been reeling since last month when his Cabinet failed to prevent indigenous protests in the Amazon basin from turning violent.
At least 34 people died after police were sent to break up roadblocks laid to demand Garcia throw out laws that encourage foreign mining and oil companies to invest in the rainforest.
Teachers and transportation workers leading demonstrations on Wednesday demanded the government spend more on education and poverty alleviation, and roll back new laws that will stiffen penalties for traffic infractions.
Protesters have tapped into a widespread sense among Peruvians that they have been left behind by Garcia's investor-friendly policies, which they say have spurred economic growth but failed to lift incomes of workers and the poor. More than a third of Peruvians live in poverty.
"Garcia might change his ministers but the policies will stay the same," said Manuel Pena, 55, a bus driver participating in a rally in Lima. "Garcia has blood on his hands for what happened in Bagua (in the Amazon). His loyalties are to foreign companies, not with the people."
With social discord increasing, analysts say a slowing economy could help a left-wing candidate to make a strong run in the next presidential race in 2011.
"We want a change in economic policies," said Mario Huaman, head of Peru's largest labor confederation.
In the capital city, demonstrations snarled traffic and slowed commutes, while the strike was strongest outside Lima in towns like Cuzco and Arequipa, home to a number of large mines in the country's vast minerals sector.
Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas said 32,000 police and 6,000 soldiers were deployed to keep order on Wednesday and no violence was reported.
Opposition parties have called for Cabanillas and Prime Minister Yehude Simon to resign for failing to prevent deadly clashes last month in the Amazon.
Garcia has said he will unveil Cabinet changes this weekend [ID:nN07320934] but has said he wants to stick to his agenda of promoting free trade and free markets.
Finance Minister Luis Carranza, a favorite of investors, is expected to be reappointed.
Garcia cannot run for re-election in 2011 but he has told investors he wants to prevent a leftist from winning.
Garcia, who frequently trades barbs with leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has blamed foreign interests for instigating recent protests in Peru but has not offered any hard evidence to support his claims. (Additional reporting by Marco Aquino and Terry Wade; Editing by Bill Trott)