Anti-government protests in Peru have spread, with clashes in Cusco

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Protests against the government of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, which have claimed 48 lives since they began a month ago, spread across the southern Andean country on Wednesday with new clashes reported in the tourist town of Cusco.

Health officials in Cusco said 37 civilians and six police officers were injured after protesters tried to take control of the city’s airport, where many foreign tourists arrive to see sites including the citadel Inca neighbor of Machu Picchu.

Demonstrations and roadblocks against Boluarte and in support of ousted President Pedro Castillo were also seen in 41 provinces, mostly in southern Peru.

The unrest began in early December following the destitution and arrest of Castillo, Peru’s first president with humble and rural roots, following his widely condemned attempt to dissolve Congress and avoid his own impeachment.

The protest, mostly in neglected rural areas of the country still loyal to Castillo, demands immediate elections, Boluarte’s resignation, Castillo’s release and justice for protesters killed in clashes with police.

Some of the worst protest violence came on Monday when 17 people were killed in clashes with police in the town of Juliaca near Lake Titicaca and protesters later attacked and burned a policeman alive.

On Wednesday, health officials in Cusco said a civilian died after being hit by gunfire.

Earlier, Peru’s Ombudsman’s Office said 39 civilians were killed in clashes with police and seven others died in traffic accidents linked to roadblocks, along with the deceased policeman. Wednesday’s death brings the toll to 48,

On Tuesday, the Peruvian government announced a three-day curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in Puno.

The National Prosecutor’s Office said it requested information from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Defense and Interior Ministries for an investigation it has opened against Boluarte and others responsible for the protesters’ deaths.

In Juliaca, Puno province, a crowd marched alongside the coffins of the 17 people killed in Monday’s protests.

“Dina killed me with bullets,” said a piece of paper attached to the coffin of Eberth Mamani Arqui, in reference to the current president of Peru.

“This democracy is no longer a democracy,” chanted the relatives of the victims.

As they passed a police station, which was guarded by dozens of officers, the marchers shouted, “Murderers!”

Meanwhile, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has begun a visit to Peru to examine the protests and the police response.

Boluarte was Castillo’s former running mate before taking over the presidency. She said she supported a plan to push back presidential and congressional elections originally scheduled for 2026 until 2024. She also voiced support for judicial inquiries into whether security forces acted with force. excessive.

But such measures have so far failed to quell the unrest which, after a brief respite around the Christmas and New Year holidays, has flared up again in some of Peru’s poorest regions.

Castillo, a political novice who lived in a two-story adobe house in the Andean highlands before moving to the presidential palace, won a narrow victory in the 2021 elections that rocked the Peruvian political establishment and laid bare the deep divisions between residents of the capital, Lima, and the long-neglected countryside.

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