Conflicts & War

Effects of unrest in Peru felt in Bolivian border town

By Gabriel Romano

Desaguadero, Bolivia, Jan 19 (EFE).- The normally busy border crossing in this town on Bolivia’s frontier with Peru has seen little activity since Jan. 4 amid renewed unrest on the Peruvian side in the wake of the Dec. 7 ouster and arrest of elected President Pedro Castillo.

“There is not a single shop open, everything is in silence. It’s like a cemetery,” Yolanda Mita tells EFE.

Mita regularly visits Desaguadero for the purpose of popping over the border to buy supplies for her business in La Paz.

Following a “truce” for the holidays, Peruvians unhappy with the removal of Castillo and the installation of erstwhile Vice President Dina Boluarte as president went back to blocking roads, effectively forcing a closure of the crossing between Desaguadero and Yungayo, Peru.

Indigenous Aymara people make up a large proportion of the population in southern Peru and northern Bolivia.

Luisa Cuellar, an Aymara food vendor in Desaguadero, tells EFE that many residents on the Peruvian side “have gone to Lima” to “settle” the conflict, apparently referring to a protest in the capital set for Thursday.

The bridge at the border remains covered with soot from the bonfires of Peruvian protesters. And the roadway in Yungayo is still impassable thanks to the mounds of dirt and rock they erected.

Junior Bravo, a Peruvian who works in La Paz, came to Desaguadero a week ago intending to cross over to Peru to collect documents he needs to reduce his Bolivian residence permit.

“There is nothing at all” in Yungayo, he says, describing shuttered stores, banks and government offices.

“They don’t want the president who is there now, they want elections, I believe that that is what should happen,” he tells EFE.

The shutdown of customs and immigration posts in Yungayo is also a headache for Cristian Castillo, a Peruvian who walked into Desaguadero but needs a permit to travel on to his intended destination in Bolivia.

“I want to cross, but I can’t because I don’t have the exit stamp (from Peru),” he said.

Castillo, who is accompanied by his wife and their six children, said that he has decided to wait on the Bolivian side pending a resolution because lodging and food are cheaper here.

Some Peruvians have continued to make their way across the border via routes that avoid the main road to buy food or cooking gas.

Truck drivers Juan Chuquimia and Sergio Acho have been stranded in Desaguadero for two weeks, unable to deliver their loads to the Peruvian port of Ilo.

They estimate that between 350 and 400 trucks in all are stuck on the Bolivian side of the border, with a comparable number in Peru.

Chuquimia and Acho told EFE that they cannot easily divert to a port in Chile, as their transit documents stipulate where they have to cross the border and they would have to enter Peru at some point to reach Chilean territory. EFE grb/dr

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