Protests against new Peruvian president leave two dead

Eva Deschamps / December 12, 2022

Two people died and at least five people were injured Sunday in growing protests against Peruvian President Dina Boluarte after the failed coup and the arrest of former President Pedro Castillo.


In a sign of rising tension, a congressional session on the situation in the country was suspended after incidents. Images posted on social networks show a man punching another man from behind in an aisle of the chamber and then a shoving match in the center of it, without it being possible to know the cause. The session was still suspended early Sunday evening.


The protests multiplied through the country, notably in the cities of the north and the Andes. Thousands of people mobilized in the streets of Cajamarca, Arequipa, Tacna, Andahuaylas, Cusco and Puno, demanding the liberation of the former head of the state and new elections and calling for a national strike.


We regret the death of two people and several injured in clashes. I urge the population to remain calm", declared the Minister of the Interior César Cervantes to the radio RPP, shortly after a first assessment of the police making report of a dead - a teenager - and five wounded.


"The life of no Peruvian deserves to be sacrificed for political interests. I reiterate my call for dialogue and renunciation of violence," the president said on Twitter.


The day before, clashes in Andahuaylas (south) left 20 people injured (16 civilians and 4 police). The violence resumed on Sunday with police firing tear gas and stone throwing by demonstrators.


Reinforcements of riot police were to arrive by plane to contain the demonstrations, police said.


Andahuaylas, located in the region of Apurimac, is the region of origin of Mrs. Boluarte, described as "traitor" by supporters of the deposed ex-president.


The police station in Huancabamba, a town in Apurimac, was set on fire, according to RPP radio.


In Lima, between 1.000 and 2.000 people demonstrated in front of the Congress to the cries of "Castillo you are not alone, the people supports you" and brandishing placards accusing "Dina (Boluarte) and the Congress" of being "corrupt rats". They were dispersed with tear gas Sunday in the beginning of evening.


Lima has always turned its back on Mr. Castillo, a rural teacher and union leader disconnected from the elites, while he was supported by the Andean regions since the 2021 elections.


Agrarian unions and peasant and indigenous social organizations called on Sunday for an "indefinite strike" starting Tuesday, rejecting the Congress and demanding early elections and a new constitution.


According to the communiqué of the Agrarian and Rural Front of Peru, which demands the "immediate release" of Mr. Castillo, he "did not perpetrate a coup d'état" when he tried on December 7 to dissolve the Parliament and to establish a state of emergency.


He was arrested a few hours later by his own bodyguard as he went to the Mexican embassy to seek political asylum. He is accused of "rebellion ».


Boluarte, vice president until her inauguration on December 7 after Castillo's impeachment, formed a government on Saturday with an independent and technical profile, with a former prosecutor, Pedro Angulo, as prime minister.


"So far, the president has not been clear on the big question: is this a transitional government or a government that intends to stay until 2026?" political analyst Giovanna Peñaflor told AFP.


The demand for new elections is associated with a massive rejection of the Congress: according to polls in November, 86% of Peruvians disapprove of the Parliament.


On Friday, Boluarte did not rule out calling early elections to find a peaceful way out of the political crisis.


Meanwhile, the theory, put forward by Mr. Castillo's former chief of staff and lawyer, that the former president was drugged without his knowledge during his failed coup attempt, is stirring up the country.


In a letter that Mr. Castillo allegedly wrote in prison, he claims that a "camouflaged" doctor and nurses and a "faceless" (hooded) prosecutor "forced" him to take blood samples without his consent, citing a "Machiavellian plan.


The president of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Francisco Brizuela, said that the former president had "refused to submit" to the tests.

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