Lima (AFP) - Activists marched through the Peruvian capital Friday to protest what they called the anti-poor policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which are holding their annual meetings here.
Around 2,000 demonstrators joined the march, carrying signs with angry slogans and at one point burning the flag of the United States, where the IMF and World Bank are based.
"Imperialists go home," said one sign decorated with swastikas. "World Bank, universal terror," said another.
Police in riot gear carrying shields and tear gas bombs accompanied the protesters on the three-hour march, but ultimately no clashes broke out.
When the march reached the meeting venues -- which have been surrounded by a heavy security presence all week -- a small group of protesters was allowed to go inside to hand a petition over to officials.
"Stop cutting payrolls to get out of the crisis," it said.
The demonstrators, some of whom wore traditional Andean indigenous garb, threatened to call a national strike if the Peruvian government continued to "blindly" implement IMF policy prescriptions.
The march was called by Peru's largest labor union, the Workers' General Confederation of Peru (CGTP).
"The economic growth the International Monetary Fund talks about in Peru in recent years hasn't been felt in the working class. It's gone to businessmen," said CGTP leader Domingo Cabrera.
The IMF and World Bank have long had thorny relations with Latin America, where they have faced accusations of forcing governments to cut programs for the poor in exchange for access to loans.
This is the first time the institutions have held their annual meetings in the region since 1967.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde sought to downplay criticisms Thursday as she kicked off the meetings in a region long resentful of being seen as America's back yard.
"The world has changed ... The IMF has changed," she said.
"It's not the old Latin America. It's not the old IMF either. The relationship is one of cooperation and partnership."