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


Protests across Peru on Thursday saw thousands of police deployed in the capital Lima as hundreds of protesters marched through the city centre, while violent clashes broke out in the southern city of Arequipa.

The Andean country’s week-long protests – which demand a complete overhaul of the government – were ousted by President Pedro Castillo in December and were fueled by dissatisfaction with living conditions and inequality in the country.

Protesters’ anger has grown with the rising death toll: At least 53 people have died amid clashes with security forces since the riots began, and 772 others have been injured, the National Ombudsman’s Office said on Thursday.

Demonstrators shouted “murderers” at police and threw stones Thursday near Arequipa’s international airport, which suspended flights Thursday as dozens tried to break down the fence. to draw from the city. Smoke could be seen billowing from the surrounding fields.

Protesters tore down a fence while trying to enter Arequipa airport.

Police are pictured in the capital Lima on Wednesday.

Demonstrators protesting in Lima as it is – defying the state of emergency ordered by the government – demanded the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and called for a general election as soon as possible.

General Victor Sanabria, head of Peru’s national police for the Lima region, told local media that 11,800 police officers have been deployed in Lima, with important places such as parliament, prosecutors’ offices, selected TV stations , the Supreme Court and the military headquarters receive. another protection.

The Peruvian authorities have been accused of using excessive force against protesters, including weapons, in recent weeks – claims that the police have denied, saying their measures are in line with international standards.

Trials have begun 17 civilians deadkilled during protests in the city of Juliaca on January 9, found wounds caused by projectiles, the head of the civil medicine told CNN en Español.

Jo-Marie Burt, a fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, told CNN that what happened in Juliaca in early January represented “the number of civilian deaths in the country since Peru returned to democracy” in 2000.

An investigation in Peru by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) also found that gunshot wounds were found on the head and upper body of the victims, Edgar Stuardo Ralón, the president of the commission said on Wednesday.

Ralon described the “expansion of the public debate” about the demonstration in Peru, where the protesters were labeled as “terrorists” and citizens spoke of insults.

Such language could lead to “more violent situations,” he warned.

Riot police fired tear gas at protesters searching the airport in Arequipa.

“When journalists use that, when politicians use that, I mean, it’s easy for the police and others or security forces to use this kind of violence, right ?” Omar Coronel, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, who specializes in Latin American protest movements, told CNN.

Peruvian officials have not made public comments about those killed in the riots. However, experts say that the most bloodshed is the citizens protesting.

“The victims were indigenous people from the countryside of Peru,” Burt said.

“This protest is based in the center and south of Peru, the indigenous part of the country, these are the areas excluded from history and excluded from the political, economic and social relations of the country.”

The protesters are demanding new elections, Boluarte’s resignation, constitutional changes and the release of Castillo, who is currently in pre-trial detention.

The main cause of the problem is the demand for better living conditions which has not been fulfilled in the two decades since the restoration of democracy in the country.

Although Peru’s economy has grown over the past decade, many people have not yet reaped its benefits, with experts identifying chronic weaknesses in security, justice, education, and other services. out of the country.

Before Thursday’s demonstration, people explained to CNN en Espanol why they came to Lima to protest. Some complained about corruption in their region, while others called Boluarte, Castillo’s former vice president, a traitor.

Protesters are seen in Lima on Thursday.

“Now the political situation deserves a change of representatives, government, leaders and legislators. That is an immediate thing. Because there are other deep issues – prices, unemployment, poverty, malnutrition nutrition and other things that history has not done,” the protester named Carlos, who is a sociologist from the Universidad San Marcos, said in Lima on Wednesday.

Another protester told CNNEE that “corruption is huge in Peru, unfortunately the state has abandoned the people.”

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader who had never held elected office before becoming president, hails from rural Peru and positions himself as a man of the people. Many of his supporters come from poor areas, and hope that Castillo will bring better prospects for the villagers and citizens of the country.

Although protests took place throughout the country, the worst violence was in the rural areas and the natives of the south, which have long been at odds with the White Coast of the country and the mestizo, who is of the origin and mixed race, leaders.

Peru’s legislators are also viewed with suspicion by the public. The president and members of parliament are not allowed to hold separate positions, according to Peruvian law, and critics have seen their lack of political experience.

A poll published in September 2022 by the IEP showed 84% of Peruvians did not accept the performance of Congress. Legislators are seen not only as pursuing their own interests in Congress, but also associated with corruption.

The desperation of the country has been expressed in many years of changing the door. The current president Boluarte is the sixth president in less than five years.

Joel Hernández García, the Commissioner for the IACHR, told CNN what is important to solve the problem is political dialogue, reform of the police and compensation for those killed in the protests.

“The police will review their protocol. To have non-lethal force under the principles of legality, necessity, and equality and as a last resort,” said Hernández García.

“The police have a duty to protect those who participate in public protests, but also (to protect) others who do not participate,” he added.


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