Lima under lockdown for APEC summit

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 21 2008 10:06 AM | Updated as of Nov 21 2008 06:06 PM

LIMA - Lima is in a state of lockdown for a weekend APEC summit that will bring together the leaders of 21 member economies, among them US President George W. Bush and his Russian and Chinese counterparts.

"We are in a state of maximum alert and we have mobilized 39,000 police officers and members of anti-terrorist units," Peruvian General Julio Vergara, in charge of security for the event, told AFP.

Metal barriers have been placed around the summit's venue -- an already well-protected army headquarters -- and security details are deployed at delegates' hotels. Helicopters and air force planes patrol the sky.

Escort squads have also been assigned to each of the heads of state and government, and police snipers are stationed on several rooftops, while teams prepared for radiological, chemical and biological attacks are on standby.

Friday and Saturday have been declared public holidays in the capital in a bid to clear the often-congested roads. Residents close to the place where the officials are meeting have been registered and prohibited from receiving any visitors.

Across Peru, a total of 100,000 police and soldiers have been mobilized to react quickly to any disturbance.

The imposing security measures are, among other goals, meant to dissuade remnants of a Maoist insurgency that was active in the 1980s and 1990s from making their presence felt.

A few members of the Shining Path rebel group last weekend shot dead three police officers and injured another one in the southeast of the country.

The far-left movement was blamed for a car bombing outside the US embassy in Lima in 2002, shortly before another visit by Bush, that killed nine people.

Police last weekend also arrested a Peruvian man hauling 36 grenades in central Lima. They were investigating his motives.

Demonstrators intending to protest Bush's attendance at the summit on Friday were to be kept well away from the US leader, who was making his last scheduled overseas trip before handing over power to his elected successor, Barack Obama.

Peru's main labor union, the General Confederation of Workers, has vowed to hold a rally in central Lima to denounce "the presence of Bush, who bears responsibility for the (global) financial crisis."

As well as Bush, the summit is to feature Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and the leaders of Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and Taiwan, among others.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum members account for 60 percent of the world's total economic output and some half of its trade.

The summit is expected to build on the G20 emergency summit held last weekend in Washington by advocating a rapid completion of the stalled Doha round trade talks.