Peru: Protests erupt as thousands of police officers deploy to guard capital


Protesters and police clashed in the streets of Lima on Thursday, as thousands of protesters from across the country gathered in the Peruvian capital, facing a massive display of force by local police. .

Weeks of protests in the Andean nation – which are seeking a full government overhaul – were sparked by the ouster of former president Pedro Castillo in December and fueled by deep dissatisfaction with the state of life and inequality in the country.

Protesters have also been angered by the rising death toll: At least 54 have been killed in clashes with security forces since the unrest began, and 772 others, including authority, was injured, said the office of the National Ombudsman on Thursday.

Protesters tore down a fence as they tried to enter Arequipa airport.

On Wednesday, there are police in the capital city of Lima.

Protesters who marched in Lima – in opposition to the state of emergency ordered by the government – demanded the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and called for general elections as soon as possible.

State media TV Peru showed a group of protesters breaking through a security fence and advancing towards Abancay Ave, near Congress. In the video, protesters are seen throwing objects and pushing security officers.

Police officers were also seen firing tear gas at some demonstrators in the center of the city.

Violent clashes also broke out in the southern city of Arequipa, where protesters shouted “murderers” at police and threw stones near the city’s international airport, which suspended flights on Thursday. Live footage from the city showed several people trying to break down a fence near the airport, and smoke billowing from nearby fields.

Government officials and some journalists have dismissed the protests as being led by vandals and criminals – a criticism several protesters rejected in an interview with CNN en Espanol during a rally in Lima. this week.

Although “the government says we are criminals, terrorists, we are not,” said the protester Daniel Mamani.

“We are workers, ordinary people who work every day, the government oppresses us, we all need to get out, it’s useless.”

“Currently, the political situation deserves a change in representatives, the government, the executive and the legislature. That’s the immediate thing. Because there are other deeper problems – inflation, unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and other historical problems that have not been solved,” said another protester named Carlos. who is a sociologist at Universidad San Marcos, told CNNEE on Wednesday.

Peruvian authorities have been accused of using excessive force against protesters, including guns, in recent weeks. The police countered that their tactics were in line with international standards.

An autopsy is underway 17 civilians killed, died during a protest in the city of Juliaca on January 9, suffering from gunshot wounds, the city’s head of forensic medicine told CNN en Español. A police officer was set on fire by “unknown assailants” a few days later, police said.

Jo-Marie Burt, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, told CNN that the incident in Juliaca in early January showed “the civilian toll the country’s deadliest since Peru’s return to democracy” in 2000.

A fact-finding mission to Peru by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also found gunshot wounds to the head and body of the victims, Edgar said. Stuardo Ralón, vice president of the commission, on Wednesday.

Ralon described the “deterioration of public debate” more broadly than the protests in Peru, with protesters being labeled “terrorists” and indigenous people being referred to in derogatory terms.

Such language, he warned, could create “more violent atmosphere”.

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters seeking an airport in Arequipa.

“When the press uses it, when the political elite uses it, I mean, it’s easier for the police and other security forces to use that kind of repression, right? ” Omar Coronel, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, who specializes in protests in Latin America, told CNN.

Peruvian authorities have not made public details of those killed in the unrest. However, experts say indigenous protesters are suffering the most from the bloodshed.

“The victims were mostly indigenous people from rural Peru,” Burt said.

“The protests were concentrated in central and southern Peru, the most indigenous areas of the country.

Protesters are demanding new elections, the resignation of Boluarte, changes to the constitution and the release of Castillo, who is currently in custody.

The root of the crisis is the demand for better living conditions that have not been fulfilled in the twenty years since the restoration of democratic rule in the country.

While Peru’s economy has boomed in recent decades, many have not reaped the benefits, with experts pointing to persistent gaps in security, justice, education and other basic services in the country. the country.

Protesters are seen in Lima on Thursday.

Castillo, a teacher and former union leader who had never held elected office before becoming president, comes from rural Peru and has established himself as a man of the people. Many of his supporters came from poor areas, and hoped that Castillo would bring better prospects to the country’s rural and indigenous peoples.

Although there have been protests across the country, the worst violence has been in the rural and indigenous south, which has long been at odds with the country’s white and coastal mestizos, who are different people. background, elite.

Peru’s legislative system is also viewed with skepticism by the public. The president and members of congress cannot serve consecutive terms, according to Peruvian law, and critics have pointed to his lack of political experience.

A poll published by the IEP in September 2022 shows that 84% of Peruvians did not approve of the performance of Congress. Legislators are considered not only to pursue their own interests in Congress, but also to be associated with corrupt practices.

It reflects the country’s frustration during his many years as the president of the door. The current president Boluarte is the sixth head of state in less than five years.

Joel Hernández García, commissioner for the IACHR, told CNN that what is needed to resolve the crisis is political dialogue, police reform and compensation for those killed in the protests.

“The police must review the protocol. To use non-lethal force under the principles of legitimacy, necessity and equality and as a last resort,” said Hernández García.

“The police have a duty to protect people participating in social protests, but also (to protect) others who are not participating,” he added.


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