Early election bill submitted in Peru as death toll from protests climbs to 4

Lima, Dec 12 (EFE).- Peru’s government on Monday formally submitted a bill to Congress signed by new President Dina Boluarte and Prime Minister Pedro Angulo proposing that general elections be moved up to April 2024, a move that comes amid a severe political and social crisis and violent protests that have left four dead over the past 24 hours.

Under the Andean nation’s constitution, the next general elections are scheduled to be held in July 2026.

Separately Monday, two more people were officially confirmed dead from clashes stemming from protests demanding early elections and the ouster of Boluarte, bringing the death toll to four.

The most recent fatality – a man identified as Jhonatan Lloclla – was confirmed in Chincheros, a province in the southern department of Apurimac, a police spokeperson told Efe.

Apurimac is the epicenter of a conflict that erupted after leftist Pedro Castillo was ousted as president and arrested for alleged rebellion.

In Chincheros province, demonstrators set fire to the local prosecutor’s office and police station, sources with Peru’s National Police told Efe.

“We need backup in Chincheros! Come with a helicopter to disperse the people. There are only 30 police. Our ammunition is running out. We have police wounded,” one officer in Chincheros said in an audio to which Efe gained access.

A police spokesman also said the crowd of demonstrators – estimated at approximately 300 – outnumbered the security forces.

Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola confirmed that a man had died that day in the central city of Arequipa.

Interior Minister Cesar Cervantes added that the basic function of the National Police is to “guarantee, maintain and re-establish internal order” and lamented that three “brothers” had lost their lives.

He added that the Attorney General’s Office will conduct an investigation to determine who is responsible for the deaths and “whether it was caused by a firearm projectile.”

Two other people – an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old – died Sunday in Andahuaylas, a city in Apurimac, where the National Police said the number of demonstrators still battling the security forces with bottle rockets, Molotov cocktails and other weapons had fallen to 500 people.

Also Monday, a group of demonstrators breached and forced the evacuation of the international airport in the southern city of Arequipa and also occupied a dairy plant in Peru’s second-largest city to press their demands for early elections and the shutdown of Congress, police spokespersons told Efe.

Local media reported that hundreds of demonstrators occupied the airport’s runway and caused some damage to infrastructure before military soldiers restored order.

Those protesters later vandalized the dairy plant and set a truck on fire.

A series of demonstrations and protests and rallies were held on Sunday in different regions of Peru by groups that reject the ouster of Castillo and are calling for early general elections.

Boluarte became Peru’s first woman president on Wednesday after Congress voted to remove Castillo on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity” following his speech announcing the dissolution of the opposition-controlled legislature and an overhaul of Peru’s courts.

Castillo, a leftist former school teacher with no previous political experience, attempted to take that drastic step just as Congress was about to start a third round of impeachment proceedings against him for allegedly leading a criminal organization that sought to profit from public contracts.

Multiple members of Castillo’s Cabinet resigned and Vice President Boluarte echoed lawmakers in labeling the move a coup.

The ousted president’s own security detail arrested him and took him to police headquarters in Lima, short-circuiting Castillo’s plan to request asylum at the Mexican Embassy, and he remains in preventive detention on charges of rebellion.

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