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


Thousands of police officers were deployed in protests across Peru’s capital Lima on Thursday as thousands of protesters marched towards the city center and violent clashes erupted in the southern city of Arequipa.

The Andean country’s weeks-long protest movement to completely replace the government was sparked by the ouster of former president Pedro Castillo in December and has been fueled by deep dissatisfaction with living conditions and inequality in the country.

Demonstrators’ anger also grew as the death toll mounted, with at least 53 people killed and 772 injured, including security officers, in clashes with security forces since the unrest began, the national ombudsman’s office said on Thursday.

Protesters shouted “murderers” and threw rocks at police outside Arequipa’s international airport, which grounded flights on Thursday after several people tried to tear down fences, live footage from the city showed. Smoke could be seen billowing from the surrounding fields.

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

On Wednesday in the capital city of Lima, the police were arrested.

Meanwhile, protesters marching in Lima, despite a government-ordered state of emergency, demanded the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and called for general elections as soon as possible.

General Victor Sanabria, head of Peru’s national police in the Lima region, told local media that 11,800 police officers were deployed in Lima to key locations such as parliament, the prosecutor’s office, some television stations, the Supreme Court and army headquarters. additional protection.

Protester Daniel Mamani said that even if “the state says we are criminals, terrorists, we are not,” he told CNN en Espanol. “We are workers, ordinary everyday working residents, the state oppresses us, they all need to leave, they are useless.

“We are not vandals, we work with our own efforts, not like other corrupt people who come here to take money out of the country, and fill themselves with money, work for themselves, work for nothing. country, it’s a lie,” said another protester, Carmen Lopez.

Peruvian authorities have been accused of using excessive force against protesters in recent weeks, including using firearms, a claim police deny, saying their tactics are in line with international standards.

Autopsies are underway 17 civilians killed, who died during protests in the city of Juliaca on Jan. 9, were found to have suffered gunshot wounds, the city’s chief medical examiner told CNN en Español. The police officer was set on fire by “unknown entities” a few days later, police said.

Jo-Marie Burt, a senior fellow at the Washington Bureau of Latin American Affairs, told CNN that what happened in early January in Juliaca was “the highest number of civilian casualties in the country since Peru’s return to democracy in 2000.”

A fact-finding mission by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to Peru also found gunshot wounds to the victims’ heads and upper bodies, the commission’s vice president Edgar Stuardo Ralón said on Wednesday.

Ralon described a broader “deterioration of the public debate” over the demonstrations in Peru, where protesters were called “terrorists” and indigenous people were called derogatory terms.

Such language could create an “atmosphere of more violence”, he warned.

Riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to enter Arequipa airport.

“When it’s used by the press, when it’s used by the political elite, it makes it easier for the police and other security forces to use that kind of repression, right?” Omar Coronel, a professor at Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University who specializes in Latin American protest movements, told CNN.

Peruvian officials have not released details of those killed in the unrest. But experts say indigenous protesters are experiencing the worst bloodshed.

“The victims are mostly indigenous people from rural Peru,” Burt said.

“The protests were concentrated in central and southern Peru, in very indigenous parts of the country, regions that have historically been marginalized and excluded from the political, economic and social life of the nation.

The protesters want new elections, Boluarte’s resignation, a constitutional amendment and the release of Castillo, who is currently under arrest.

The essence of the crisis is the demands for better living conditions, which remained unfulfilled in the two decades since the restoration of democratic government in the country.

While Peru’s economy has boomed over the past decade, many have not, and experts note persistent gaps in the country’s security, justice, education and other basic services.

Ahead of Thursday’s demonstrations, people told CNNEE why they came to Lima to protest. Some complained of corruption in their areas, while others called Boluarte, who served as vice president of former President Castillo, a traitor.

Protesters are seen in Lima on Thursday.

“The current political situation deserves a change of representatives, government, executive and legislature.” It’s right away. Because there are other deeper problems – inflation, lack of employment, poverty, malnutrition and other historical problems that have not been addressed,” protester Carlos, who is a sociologist at the University of San Marcos, said Wednesday from Lima.

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

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader who never held elected office before becoming president, is from rural Peru and considers himself a man of the people. Many of his supporters came from poorer regions and hoped that Castillo would bring better prospects to the country’s rural and indigenous peoples.

Although protests have taken place across the nation, the worst violence has been in the rural and indigenous southern regions, which have long been at odds with the country’s coastal whites and mestizos, the mixed-race elite.

The public is also skeptical of the Peruvian legislature. Under Peruvian law, the president and members of Congress are not allowed to serve consecutive terms, and critics have noted their lack of political experience.

in 2022 in September, a poll published by the IEP showed that 84% of Peruvians disapproved of Congress’s performance. Legislators in Congress are perceived not only as self-interested, but also associated with corrupt practices.

The country’s frustration was reflected in years of revolving door presidency. Current President Boluarte is the sixth head of state in less than five years.

IACHR Commissioner Joel Hernández García told CNN that resolving the crisis requires political dialogue, police reform and compensation for those killed in the protests.

“The police force needs to review its protocol. To use non-lethal force according to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality and as a last resort,” said Hernández García.

“Police officers must protect people who are participating in social protest, but also (protect) others who are not participating,” he added.


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