In Peru, anti-government protests spread with clashes in Cuzco

LIMA – Protests against the government of Peruvian President Dina Baluarte, which have killed 47 people since the start of the month, spread to the country’s Andean south on Wednesday, with fresh clashes in the tourist city of Cusco.

Health officials in Cusco said 16 civilians and six police officers were injured after protesters tried to seize the city’s airport, where many foreign tourists fly to see sites including the nearby Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Protests and road blockades against Baluarte 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 jailing and arrest of Castillo, Peru’s first president with humble rural roots, following his widely condemned attempt to dissolve Congress and prevent his own impeachment.

The protest, mostly in neglected rural areas of the country that remain loyal to Castillo, is demanding snap elections, Baluarte’s resignation, Castillo’s release and justice for protesters killed in clashes with police.

Some of the most violent protests occurred on Monday, when 17 people were killed in clashes with police in the town of Julioca near Lake Titicaca, and protesters later attacked and burned a police officer.

In total, Peru’s ombudsman’s office said 39 civilians were killed in clashes with police and another seven died in traffic accidents linked to roadblocks, and a police officer was killed.

The Peruvian government has declared a three-day curfew in Puno from 8pm to 4am.

The National Prosecutor’s Office said it requested information from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Ministries of Defense and Interior for the investigation launched against Boluarte and other officials over the deaths of the protesters.

In Julioca, Puno province, a crowd marched past the coffins of 17 people killed during Monday’s protests.

“Dina killed me with bullets,” said a piece of paper attached to the coffin of Ebert Mamani Arci, referring to the current president of Peru.

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

Passing by the police station, which was guarded by dozens of officers, the marchers shouted: “Murderers!”

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

Baluarte was Castillo’s former running mate before assuming the presidency. She said she supports a plan to postpone until 2024 the presidential and congressional elections, which were originally scheduled for 2026. She also expressed support for a judicial inquiry into whether security forces used excessive force.

But such moves have so far failed to stop the riots, which, after a brief respite around the Christmas and New Year holidays, have resumed in force in some of Peru’s poorest areas.

Castillo, a political newcomer who lived in a two-story adobe house in the Andes before moving into the presidential palace, narrowly won the 2021 election that shook Peru’s political establishment and exposed deep divisions among the capital’s residents. , Lima and the long-neglected countryside.

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