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LIMA (Reuters) - Peru shut down for business on Sunday for a controversial census after President Alan Garcia ordered everyone in the country to stay home for 10 hours.
Half a million student volunteers were going from door to door to collect information about income, education level, jobs, religion and marital status.
Garcia said Peru needed new population data because of inaccuracies in the 2005 census by the National Statistics and Information Institute, or INEI, which said there are 27.2 million Peruvians, half of them in poverty or extreme poverty.
But the president's new census has been criticized in the local press as politically motivated.
Former INEI director Farid Matuk told Reuters that Garcia was trying to invalidate the 2005 census in order to cover-up his failure to live up to his promise to slash poverty to 30 percent of the population by 2011.
Although the government did not establish sanctions for people disobeying the order to stay home, police were "inviting" people to go home if they were out on the street.
Most streets in the capital, Lima, were deserted although some taxis and buses were circulating.
"It's absurd that everyone should stay put. I don't have a permit but I've got to work. I just got off the graveyard shift and I've had to take five different buses to get to my next job," said Elizabeth Palacios, a 26-year-old nurse, walking to a house where she takes care of an elderly person.
Lima's main business group said Peru would lose $83 million in business on Sunday due to the closure of stores, malls and tourism destinations.