Update 1: Adds president’s response to protests, changes headline
Lima, Jan 25 (EFE).- The president of Peru, Dina Boluarte, called for a national truce over protests demanding her resignation, while the demonstrations continued amid violent clashes Tuesday in the historic center of Lima.
“I call on my beloved homeland for a national truce to be able to start dialog and, even better, to set the agenda for each region and develop our peoples,” Boluarte said at a press conference with foreign media.
The president also reiterated her support for the National Police in her actions to control anti-government protests and attributed “the chaos” that these have caused to “radical groups.”
“This is not a peaceful protest, it is a violent action generated by a group of radical people whose political and economic agenda is based on drug trafficking, illegal mining and smuggling,” she said.
She said the economic losses amount to more than PEN 2 billion (about $514 million) in terms of production and PEN 3 billion in terms of infrastructure damage such as airports and highways, police stations and public ministry offices.
What organizers called a “grand national march” to demand the resignation of transitional President Dina Boluarte and the dissolution of Congress was the occasion Tuesday for additional clashes here between protesters and the Peruvian National Police (PNP).
After congregating in Dos de Mayo Plaza near the headquarters of Peru’s largest labor federation, the CGTP, hundreds of demonstrators broke up into groups and began marching down several of the capital’s main thoroughfares.
Several contingents converged on San Martin Plaza, the epicenter of last Thursday’s “taking of Lima” by a crowd of thousands, many of them residents of the largely indigenous south.
On Jiron Miro Quesada street, the PNP launched tear gas at demonstrators, who responded by hurling bricks and stones at the cops.
The PNP also resorted to tear gas to prevent protesters from advancing in the direction of University Park. Those officers were likewise pelted with stones and with bottles of red paint that stained their riot shields.
Forty-six demonstrators and one police officer have died in the unrest that began on Dec. 7, when Congress removed elected leftist President Pedro Castillo after he tried to dissolve the legislature and call early elections.
Castillo, a 53-year-old former schoolteacher and union activist with no prior experience in public office, took office in July 2021 after narrowly defeating right-winger Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori.
Hailing from the poor northern region of Cajamarca, he had no allies among the traditional elites in Lima and faced an opposition-controlled Congress that tried to impeach him more than once and repeatedly rejected his nominees for Cabinet posts.
The morning of Dec. 7, Castillo went on national television to announce the dissolution of Congress and plans for a constitutional convention to draft a replacement for the charter enacted in 1993 by Alberto Fujimori.
Then-Vice President Boluarte and other members of the Cabinet joined lawmakers in denouncing the action as a coup.
By the end of that day, Boluarte was president and Castillo was behind bars, where he remains, though his wife and children were allowed to take up an offer of asylum in Mexico.
A recent poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, an independent research outfit in Lima, found that 71 percent of Peruvians disapprove of Boluarte, while 60 percent view the protests as justified.
And the Peruvian Congress is even more unpopular, with an approval rating of 9 percent, according to the survey results.EFE