Conflicts & War

Crisis rumbles on in Peru

Lima, Dec 16 (EFE).- Peru’s accidental president reached out Friday to people protesting the ouster and imprisonment of elected leftist head of state Pedro Castillo, proposing a dialogue to end the unrest that has claimed 20 lives, half of them since the imposition of a nationwide state of emergency.

“I have convened the leaders of the Catholic and evangelical churches to set up a dialogue in each of the regions that have mobilized,” Dina Boluarte said in a commencement address at a military academy.

“This transition government that I lead understands and continues to recognize the demands of the Peruvians who have come out legitimately to raise their voices, just as we continue supporting, ratifying that the police and the armed forces have clear instructions to safeguard the lives and human rights of the protesters,” the erstwhile vice president said.

Boluarte spoke a day after eight people died when soldiers opened fire on protesters trying to occupy the airport in Ayacucho, an incident captured on video.

Two members of her Cabinet resigned Friday over the security forces’ “disproportionate” response to the protests.

“This morning I have presented my letter of resignation from the office of Minister of State of education,” Patricia Correa wrote on Twitter. “The deaths of fellow citizens have no justification whatsoever. State violence cannot be disproportionate and deadly.”

Stepping down as culture minister, Jair Perez said that “the irreparable loss of brothers and sisters” made it impossible for him to remain in the government.

But Defense Minister Alberto Otarola spoke out later Friday to express the Boluarte government’s “unconditional support for our armed forces and National Police in this task of establishing internal order.”

On the political front, Peru’s Congress – which has an approval rating of 10 percent – rejected Boluarte’s proposal to move up the general elections from 2026 to December 2023.

The bill garnered 49 votes, far short of the 87 needed to pass, amid complaints from leftist lawmakers that the text should have included provision for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.

Congress removed Castillo on Dec. 7, hours after he announced the dissolution of the legislature and plans to hold elections for an assembly to craft a replacement for the constitution enacted during the 1990-2000 authoritarian regime of Alberto Fujimori.

Castillo supporters mounted fresh protests Friday in various Peruvian cities to demand his release from custody.

In Lima, police intervened to prevent clashes between Castillo partisans and some 1,000 people who took part in a march to show support for the armed forces and police.

Castillo, 53, had no previous experience of public office when he ran for president and narrowly won in a runoff against rightist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori.

Hailing from the poor northern region of Cajamarca and without allies among the traditional governing elite in Lima, the former schoolteacher faced hostility from the opposition-controlled Congress and allegations of corruption practically from the moment he took office in July 2021.

EFE dub-gdl-pfc/dr

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