Crime & Justice

Peru rights groups slam ‘indiscriminate use of force’ against protesters

Lima, Jan 26 (EFE).- Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator on Thursday accused police of “indiscriminate use of force” against anti-government protesters and said a wall of impunity was being erected to shield them from accountability for their actions.

“In the history of democracy in Peru, we’ve never experienced levels of repression like what we’re experiencing at this time,” the head of that civil society coalition’s human rights defenders protection unit, Mar Perez, said at a press conference.

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.

Perez said the security forces “are firing at people who are demonstrating peacefully and even at people who aren’t participating in the protests.”

Jennie Dador, the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinator, whose initials are CNDDHH, said for her part that the coalition is urging dialogue and a political solution to the crisis and also calling for the resignation of transitional President Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of Congress and fresh general elections as soon as possible.

Responsibility for the bloodshed is shared by both the executive and legislative branches, Dador said, adding that “despite the crisis we’re facing today, with a rising number of deaths and also with (new) territories joining the demonstrations on a daily basis, (they are) incapable of reading the reality” and care only about remaining in power.

“Most serious of all is that they’re using accusations of terrorism” against the demonstrators, Perez said.

Terrorism charges are being brought against “those who mobilize, who participate in protest actions, even people who have done nothing more than raise money to support the injured. We’ve now found nine case files where social protest-related actions are being investigated” as alleged acts of terrorism, she said.

Perez also expressed concern that “an architecture for impunity” is being built” by the Attorney General’s Office through moves that have slashed resources and weakened the ability of local human rights prosecutors’ offices to investigate allegations of serious rights violations.

“We human rights organisms are going to continue to pursue our own legal proceedings so those responsible for these killings end up in prison, as is appropriate,” Dador said. “It may take us a few years, but that’ll be where they go.”

The unrest began on Dec. 7, when Congress removed elected leftist President Pedro Castillo after 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 and faced an opposition-controlled Congress that tried to impeach him more than once and repeatedly rejected his nominees for Cabinet posts.

The morning of Dec. 7, Castillo went on national television to announce the dissolution of Congress and plans for a new general election within nine months.

Then-Vice President Boluarte and other members of the Cabinet joined lawmakers in denouncing the action as a coup.

By the end of that day, Boluarte was president and Castillo was behind bars, where he remains, though his wife and children were allowed to take up an offer of asylum in Mexico.

A recent poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, an independent research outfit in Lima, found that 71 percent of Peruvians disapprove of Boluarte, while 60 percent view the protests as justified.

And the Peruvian Congress is even more unpopular, with an approval rating of 9 percent, according to the survey results. EFE


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