(above) A woman bangs a pan during a protest against the high cost of living in Lima, Wednesday, July 9, 2008. Thousands of workers called a nationwide strike on Wednesday against the economic policies of Peru's President Alan Garcia. The poster reads in Spanish: "July 9, National Strike". (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Thousands protest economic policy in Peru
July 9, 2008 - NewsOK.com (AP)

By CARLA SALAZAR, Associated Press Writer

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Tens of thousands of union workers took to the streets across Peru on Wednesday to protest rising food and fuel prices they blame on the free market policies of President Alan Garcia.

Nine police officers were wounded after protesters attacked them with sticks in the village of Puerto Maldonado in the remote jungle department of Madre de Dios, state news agency Andina reported.

Protesters in the same town also set a fire that destroyed a regional government office, Cabinet chief Jorge del Castillo told reporters.

Peruvian media estimated that across the country, more than 30,000 members of the General Confederation of Workers heeded the call for the national strike. In Lima, some 6,000 people filled a central plaza for a noisy pot-banging protest.

Authorities did not give crowd estimates.

Gen. Octavio Salazar, head of the national police, said 216 people were arrested nationwide.

Transportation workers did not strike, but protesters blockaded key roadways with rocks. Rail service to the famed Inca citadel Machu Picchu was suspended Tuesday and Wednesday because of safety concerns related to the strike, train operator PeruRail said.

Garcia said the protests represented only a small sector of society and did not have a major impact.

"The population has shown that it didn't have ... the will to leave the country paralyzed," he said in a televised address.

Peru's economy has surged since Garcia took office in 2006, with growth hitting 9 percent last year and projected to be 8 percent in 2008.

But many of Peru's poor say they haven't seen any benefits from the boom.