Peru government sends armed forces to clear roadblocks as protesters dig in

Lima, Jan 27 (EFE).- The Peruvian government has vowed to clear roadblocks set up by protesters across the country who are demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte.

The government Thursday called in the armed forces as demonstrators continued to dig in with the closure of strategic highways that has led to the shortages of basics, including food and fuel.

“The armed forces will help the Peruvian national police to unblock the national network of highways that have been the subject of a state of emergency,” the defense and interior ministries said in a joint statement.

“We call on those who persist in these illegal measures to desist from it, allow the peaceful unblocking of the roads and avoid confrontations with the armed forces,” the statement said.

Contingents of armed forces riding armored vehicles arrived in Puno to open the way for highways and end the blockades in the south Andean region bordering Bolivia, which has been the epicenter of weeks-long anti-government protests.

Military chief General Manuel Gómez de la Torre said they have mobilized troops “to reopen all our roads for the free movement of citizens.”

Eyewitnesses said the military removed stones and rubble from the Laraqueri highway near Puno.

On Thursday, thousands of protesters from various regions walked towards the streets of Lima for a new march, demanding the president to step down, the dissolution of Congress, and early elections.

The march began peacefully. But clashes erupted at different places, with police firing tear gas shells at demonstrators, who threw stones and other blunt objects.

According to Ombudsman’s Office, 46 protesters have died in clashes with the security forces, 21 of them in Puno, since the unrest began on Dec. 7.

A policeman also lost his life after he was set ablaze in Juliaca, the most populous city in Puno.

The National Human Rights Coordinator Thursday accused police of “indiscriminate use of force” against anti-government protesters, saying a wall of impunity was erected to shield them from accountability for their actions.

The head of that civil society coalition’s human rights defenders protection unit, Mar Perez, told reporters that they had never “experienced levels of repression like what we are experiencing at this time” in the history of democracy in Peru.

The activist recalled that of the 63 deaths in the protests, based on tallies compiled by different sources, “the state is directly responsible for 46 of them.”

“It’s no coincidence the deaths have occurred in parts of the country where there’s a marked indigenous presence, while there still hasn’t been a single death in Lima, where there are mass demonstrations at this very moment,” she said.

The crisis started after Congress removed elected leftist President Pedro Castillo as 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, was inaugurated 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.

He faced an opposition-controlled Congress that tried to impeach him more than once and repeatedly rejected his nominees for Cabinet posts. EFE


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