Thousands of riot police took up positions in an open-air Lima market on Friday, a day after two people were killed when a mob angry over plans to move the market went on a looting rampage.
Some 5,000 police officers were deployed to La Parada, a wholesale produce market, after 500 police were attacked when they tried to block street entrances with concrete barriers in attempt to force the vendors to move to a different site, National Police chief Raul Zalazar said.
More than 100 people were injured in the clashes, including 68 police officers, five of whom were hospitalized. One police officer was knocked off his horse and attacked by a mob with clubs and rocks.
Police responded with tear gas, but were forced to fire into the air to rescue their fallen colleague.
"They took advantage of a wounded police officer, half fainted, and tried to kill him off," said President Ollanta Humala. "This is shameful behavior," he said, describing the attackers as "savages."
The mob also attacked news reporters and stole cameras, and tore into a nearby shopping center and stripped the mall clean.
A 32-year-old man died of a bullet wound in the stomach, and a 20-year-old died after a blow to the head, hospital and health ministry officials reported.
Protesters later tore down the cement blocks placed at the entrance, allowing freight trucks to again roll into market.
On Friday Lima's socialist mayor, Susana Villaran, was not backing down.
"The rule of law will be respected and Lima will have the wholesale market it deserves," said Villaran, speaking to local media from New York where she traveled for personal reasons.
City officials have long wanted to relocate La Parada, which opened 50 years ago as the main wholesale market for a city of around one million people.
Today Lima has a population of more than eight million, and La Parada is overwhelmed by the demand for produce. Authorities also say the market today is an unhealthy, dangerous site run by gangs that force merchants to pay protection money.
"There cannot be lawless territories in Lima, where chaos and the underworld are in charge," Villaran said.
Merchants oppose the move, claiming they will pay higher rent and lose access to customers at the new market in the Santa Ana district. The new site has modern security equipment and more room for cargo trucks.
Villaran blamed the violence on "lumpen, criminals" and "people with the MOVADEF," a group seen as the legal arm of the former Maoist Shining Path guerrillas. The Shining Path was crushed in the 1990s.
Rioting broke out Thursday soon after Peruvian electoral officials allowed a recall vote against Villaran to proceed. Opponents say that Villaran should be booted out of office on grounds of incompetence.