Peru’s top prosecutor questions Boluarte about protest deaths
Lima, Mar 7 (EFE).- Peru’s transitional president, Dina Boluarte, spent just over an hour Tuesday answering questions from Attorney General Patricia Benavides about the deaths of at least 48 protesters at the hands of security forces in the last three months.
Boluarte arrived at the AG Office around 8:50 am in an official vehicle and left 75 minutes later without saying anything to reporters waiting outside.
She was subpoenaed to give a statement as Benavides weighs filing mass-murder charges against her and several former and current members of the administration that took power on Dec. 7 with the congressional ouster of elected President Pedro Castillo.
Facing possible indictment along with Boluarte are current Prime Minister Alberto Otarola and Defense Minister Jorge Chavez, former Prime Minister Pedro Angulo, and ex-Interior Ministers Victor Rojas and Cesar Cervantes.
Protests broke out following the removal of Castillo after he tried to dissolve Congress and begin preparations for a constitutional convention.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of erstwhile Vice President Boluarte, the closure of Congress, moving up the next general election from 2026 to this year, and the holding of an assembly to draft a new constitution.
Survey results released at the end of last month by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) show Boluarte with a disapproval rating of 77 percent, while 90 percent of respondents disapproved of Congress.
Upwards of 70 people have died in the unrest, including patients who died en route to hospitals due to roadblocks mounted by protesters.
One police officer was burned alive by protesters, and the army said Monday that six soldiers drowned in the Ilave River in the southern region of Puno while fleeing demonstrators.
Puno has seen an intensification of protest activity since police and soldiers killed 18 demonstrators in Juliaca, the regional capital, in a single day in January.
After Boluarte sat down with the attorney general, her deposed – and jailed – predecessor took part virtually in a court hearing Tuesday on prosecutors’ motion to have him held in preventive detention for 36 months on corruption charges.
The 51-year-old former schoolteacher is already under an 18-month preventive detention order for his actions on Dec. 7, which the AG Office says amounted to an attempted coup.
“I roundly and categorically deny that I am the author and form part a criminal ring, the only offense I have committed is to serve my country as president of the republic,” Castillo told Supreme Court Judge Juan Carlos Checkley.
Prosecutors, Castillo said, “have built a castle of alleged crimes” with help from “bought-off collaborators.”
Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress came hours before opposition lawmakers were to mount another attempt to impeach him, which would have been the third such “constitutional accusation” against him since he took office in July 2021.
“I have committed no crime, your honor. Peru knows, the people know, that today those who have made constitutional accusation would also in any case have been part of this ostensible criminal organization, because most of them passed into the presidential offices,” he said, referring to Boluarte’s team.
Castillo, whose wife and children were granted asylum in Mexico, urged Checkley “to demonstrate that you are on the side of the people, not the side of the enemies.”
The corruption case centers on alleged irregularities in the awarding of a contract to build a bridge in the northern region of San Martin.
Checkley said that he will announce his decision Thursday.