Conflicts & War

“No room for fear,” new president tells Peru on 1st day of state of emergency

Lima, Dec 15 (EFE).- Peruvian President Dina Boluarte appealed Thursday for courage and pushed her proposal for early elections at the start of a 30-day nationwide state of emergency imposed to contain protests against last week’s ouster and arrest of predecessor less than 18 months after he took office.

“There is no room here for fear, but instead for bravery,” she said during an end-of-term ceremony at the air force academy in Lima.

The erstwhile vice president urged Congress “to make the decisions” as Congress prepared to begin debating Boluarte’s proposal to move up elections from 2026 to April 2024 at the latest, with the possibility of a vote in December 2023.

Describing the unrest that has rocked the nation for the last week as the work of “violent people disguised as demonstrators,” she reaffirmed her “commitment to work for the security of the entire country.”

The number of fatalities in confrontations between protesters and security forces climbed to 14 Thursday with the deaths of six people, including two killed during an attempt to occupy the international airport in Ayacucho, Peru’s second city.

“Neither violence nor radicalism will end a legal and legitimate government,” Boluarte said.

The protesters, however, view the new president as a “usurper” and her foreign minister announced Thursday the recall of ambassadors from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela because their governments continue to recognize Castillo as Peru’s president.

Though concentrated in the southern regions of Apurimac and Arequipa, protests demanding Boluarte’s resignation, the release of Castillo and the convening of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution are ongoing in Lima and other parts of the country as well.

The state of exception entails the suspension of the right of assembly and freedom of movement, allows police to enter a home without a warrant and authorizes the use of the military to maintain order.

EFE saw military units taking up positions Wednesday at strategic points in Arequipa and some 1,000 soldiers, backed by armored vehicles, made their presence known Thursday in the capital.

Peru’s largest union federation, the CGTP, added its voice Thursday to the call for Boluarte to step down.

But the CGTP’s secretary-general, Luis Villanueva, told a press conference that he does not expect Boluarte to resign.

“Now, for the statements and counter-statements that we are hearing in the media and her declarations, we are certain that she is working in tandem with the Congress of the Republic. It seems that it’s not only the congress members who want to remain until 2026, but also Madam Dina Boluarte,” the labor leader said.

While condemning violence and vandalism, the CGTP boss said that the crisis “is not resolved by militarizing the streets, it is resolved by attending to the demands of the workers.”

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 disgraced 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-pbc/dr

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