Peruvians went to work in large numbers Wednesday, turning their backs on calls for a nationwide strike by a Marxist-led labor federation to protest President Alejandro Toledo's free market policies.
The General Confederation of Peruvian Workers, the country's largest labor federation, sought to paralyze the nation by urging workers to stay at home. But most Peruvians made it to their jobs despite a shortage of public buses early in the day.
Many workers abandoned the protest after the government issued a decree docking a day's wages for those who missed work in an effort to deflate the protest.
Although most people made it to work, thousands of protesters marched and held rallies in Lima, the capital, and across Peru.
Police detained 76 demonstrators throughout the country, including 49 in the capital, mostly for burning tires and trying to block streets, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday night.
William Villarroel, 46, a waiter at a downtown coffee shop, said he supported the protest but could not sacrifice a day's pay.
"I have to work," he said as he watched hundreds of members of a construction union pass his shop. "How am I going to eat if I miss a day of work? How am I going to care for my kids?"
The construction workers carried clubs while marching to a rally at the downtown Dos de Mayo Plaza. Dozens of helmeted police carrying riot shields accompanied them to the rally.
The government called out 93,000 police to maintain order in Lima and other cities and deployed troops to guard public installations, including electric and water plants.
The government said intelligence reports suggested that radical communist groups and remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas planned to infiltrate crowds to incite violence.
In the nation's largest rally, thousands of union members and protesters gathered in the Lima plaza to hear fiery speeches from their leaders, who flayed Toledo for his policies supporting free market economic policies promoted by the United States.
"We want bread with social justice -- that is the main message of this national strike," labor leader Juan Jose Gorriti shouted to approving roars from the crowd.
Gorriti told the crowd that reports he had received from around the country indicated 90 percent of workers had supported the strike.
But Labor Minister Javier Neves said 95 percent of private-sector employees in Lima and 89 percent of workers nationwide reported for work.
Banks, offices and most shops and public markets opened in Lima and other cities around the country.
Toledo came into office in July 2001 with polls showing that he had the support of nearly 60 percent of Peruvians, just eight months after the government of authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori collapsed in a corruption scandal.
But Toledo's approval rating quickly eroded, with Peruvians complaining that he was untrustworthy, indecisive and had not kept promises to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Former president Alan Garcia, head of the populist Aprista party, Peru's largest opposition group, backed the labor protest. The charismatic Garcia is considered an early front-runner in presidential elections scheduled for 2006.