Peru: the showdown continues between the president and the demonstrators

The standoff continues Saturday in Peru where President Dina Boluarte has ruled out resigning as demanded by protesters after demonstrations that have killed at least 42 people in five weeks in the Andean country. “Some voices from supporters of violence and radicals demand my resignation, inciting the population to chaos, disorder and destruction. To them I tell them responsibly: I am not going to resign, my commitment is with Peru” , said Dina Boluarte in a message to the nation broadcast on Friday by state television.

Cascading resignations

Three members of Dina Boluarte’s government resigned in two days: Labor Minister Eduardo Garcia, who disagreed with the government’s handling of the protests, Interior Minister Victor Rojas, and Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations Grecia Rojas. Their successors were sworn in on Friday.

Since the start of the crisis, clashes between demonstrators and the police have left at least 42 dead, including a policeman burned alive by the crowd, according to the Defender of the People (ombudsman). The protests also injured at least 531 people, including 176 police officers, and 329 people were arrested, according to the prosecution.

Departure demanded by the protesters

In Juliaca, a city in the south of the country where clashes left 19 dead earlier this week, the funerals of the victims follow one another. “My daughter was earning a living while pursuing her studies. We went shopping. We were two blocks away from the protests and this is what happens, we came back without her”, laments Demetrio Aroquipa, whose daughter, 17-year-old psychology student was shot and killed.

The protests erupted after the dismissal and arrest on December 7 of socialist President Pedro Castillo, accused of having tried to carry out a coup d’etat by wanting to dissolve the Parliament which was preparing to oust him from power. Dina Boluarte, who was Pedro Castillo’s vice-president, succeeded him in accordance with the Constitution and came from the same left-wing party as him. But the demonstrators, who see her as a “traitor”, demand her departure as well as immediate elections.

“I cannot stop repeating my condolences for the deaths of Peruvians in the protest actions. I ask forgiveness for this situation”, said Dina Boluarte in her message to the nation. But she refused to convene a constituent assembly, as the demonstrators are also demanding. “We can’t do this overnight,” she pleaded.

Investigation opened for “genocide”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which completed an inspection mission in Peru on Friday, called for an impartial investigation into the crackdown on the protests, saying there were signs pointing to “excessive use of force”. . The Peruvian prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation for “genocide” against Dina Boluarte and several other senior officials.

Demonstrations and blockades continued on Friday in several regions of Peru, notably in the capital Lima. New marches also took place in Tacna, 1,220 km southeast of Lima, near Chile. In a statement, Chilean authorities said Thursday they had temporarily closed the border “due to protests near the Peruvian border complex of Santa Rosa”.

Arequipa, the second city of the country, was for its part completely stopped. Roadblocks cut it off from the neighboring regions of Cusco and Puno. Regional governors and several professional associations in Peru have joined the call for the resignation of President Boluarte.

42 dead in five weeks

“How many more deaths will maintaining Dina Boluarte as president cost? All Peruvians, left or right, should ask themselves this question. No function can be above human life”, the governor of Puno (south), Richard Hancco, told the press.

The authorities of the Andean regions of Apurimac and Cusco, as well as 12 departmental bars and the National College of Teachers expressed themselves in the same direction. The northern regions of the country, the heart of the Peruvian economy where most industries are located, have so far been spared the protests.

The government attributes the unrest to “professional agitators funded by illegal money”. Police announced the arrest of a trade union leader from the Ayacucho region, Rocio Leandro, accused of financing the protests and recruiting protesters. According to a police spokesman, General Oscar Arriola, Ms Leandro belonged, under the nom de guerre of “Comrade Cusi”, to the defunct Maoist armed group Shining Path.

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