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LATIN AMERICA | 24-01-2023 13:31

'Civil war now!' exclaim demonstators in Peru as tensions rise

Hundreds of demonstrators marching in Lima called for the resignation of President Dina Boluarte; Massive protests that have already claimed the lives of 46 people set to continue, Interior Minister Vicente Romero warns.

"Civil war now!" exclaimed hundreds of demonstrators who marched in Lima on Monday calling for the resignation of President Dina Boluarte amid protests that have claimed the lives of 46 people.    

"We are not one, now we are two, now we are all, in one voice!" exclaimed the Andean demonstrators from Puno, Cusco and Andahuaylas during an afternoon mobilisation under a scorching sun.

The march moved peacefully for several blocks before being dispersed by police with tear gas.  

"We urgently need Dina to resign. Because of her we are out here suffering for a week, and we are going to demand until the last days for her to resign," Edmunda Ccanaguira, a 60-year-old indigenous woman who arrived a week ago from Sicuani, Cusco, told AFP. 

"She does not listen to the people, because of her we are in the streets, a week without food, without sleep because of Dina Boluarte we are here," she added. 

 

Protests will continue: Interior Minister 

The massive protests shaking Peru will continue, Interior Minister Vicente Romero warned early on the eve of a "national march" in Lima and other cities.

"The social protests are still going to continue, and we are working intensively with the defence minister on how to resolve them," the Interior Minister told state television station TV Peru.

Romero defended the police repression, which has been questioned by civil society groups.

"We are experiencing one of the highest levels of violence in recent times since the 1980s, but I believe that the capacity of our police has been spectacular," Romero added.

"We have trained more than 5,000 men in human rights," he said. In 2018, French and Spanish police trained Peruvian riot squads.

 

Released from University

The Peruvian police were in the eye of criticism for their violent entry into the National University of San Marcos, in Lima, to arrest demonstrators who had arrived from Andean regions sleeping in university buildings. Of 193 detainees, 192 were released on Sunday night. 

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the police "ensure the legality and proportionality of the intervention and guarantees of due process" in the wake of that intervention.

The General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) called for a national march on Tuesday under the slogan "stop criminal repression."

The country's main trade union confederation is also demanding the closure of Congress and a Constituent Assembly.

"The national people have been carrying out peaceful, civic democratic struggles," said CGTP Secretary General Geronimo López, who attributed the violence in the marches to "infiltrated people from the government."

The Interior Minister has pointed out that "there are just demands that the government has to attend to, but she denounces the presence of hooligans among the demonstrators. “

 

Boluarte before the OAS

The Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) will meet on Wednesday and hear Boluarte, who will participate virtually, the institution said.

The session comes just days after a rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said Peru was the scene of "violence" in the protests.

In Buenos Aires, the presidents of Argentina and Brazil, Alberto Fernández and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a joint statement, lamented the clashes in Peru.

Both "called on all Peruvians to resume dialogue and build consensus" and "expressed their concern over the situation of former president Pedro Castillo, in particular his prolonged preventive detention.”

In Lima, the Foreign Ministry delivered notes of "energetic protest" to the Bolivian and Colombian embassies for considering recent statements by presidents Luis Arce and Gustavo Petro to be acts of interference in Peru's internal politics.

 

Machu Picchu is still closed 

According to transport authorities on Monday, 74 pickets were blocking roads in 10 of the 25 Peruvian regions calling for Boluarte's resignation.

In Ica, 350 kilometres south of Lima, a group of people set fire to farms belonging to export companies, according to television pictures.

The airports of Arequipa and Juliaca in Puno remain closed under military guard to prevent them from being stormed.

Rail service between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru's jewel of tourism, is suspended because of the closure until further notice of the famous citadel for security.

"The citadel is closed until this whole issue is resolved," Zenobio Valencia, head of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park, told AFP.

The protests erupted after the impeachment and arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo on 7 December when he tried to dissolve the right-wing-controlled parliament, which was about to remove him from power for alleged corruption.

The social crisis is also a reflection of the huge gap between the capital and the impoverished provinces that supported Castillo, who is of indigenous descent, in the 2021 elections.

by Carlos Mandujano & Luis Jaime Cisneros, AFP

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