Conflicts & War

Peruvian police arrest 200 protesters at university

Lima, Jan 21 (EFE).- The Peruvian National Police (PNP) arrested 200 people here Saturday while evicting protesters from the campus of San Marcos University, authorities said.

On Wednesday, a faction of the San Marcos student association opened the gates to hundreds of people from the southern regions of Puno, Cuzco and Arequipa who traveled to Lima to press demands for the resignation of transitional President Dina Boluarte and the dissolution of Congress in favor of general elections this year.

At around 9:30 am Saturday, a PNP armored vehicle crashed through the university gates, quickly followed by a large contingent of officers who began arresting the protesters as heavily armed riot police cordoned off the campus and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Roughly 90 minutes later, buses filled with detainees were seen leaving the campus.

The operation was overseen by prosecutor Alfonso Barnechea, who told reporters at the scene that the Attorney General’s Office had received complaints with the San Marcos administration about robberies and assaults by the protesters lodging on the campus.

He said that the detainees would be accompanied to police stations by prosecutors and medics to ensure their physical integrity and respect for their rights.

But six lawmakers who came to the campus when they learned of the police action gave little credence to Barnechea’s assurances.

“In the context of our functions we have come to verify the actual situation in which this eviction, this intervention has occurred. We don’t have no information, there is no commander. We don’t know what has happened. We don’t know which prosecutor is in charge. They want to restrict our rights,” congresswoman Ruth Luque told EFE outside the university gates.

Luque and her colleagues were rebuffed when they sought to enter the campus to see for themselves what was happening.

Describing the actions of police as “completely arbitrary,” she said that the cops violated the due-process rights of the protesters and the lawmakers’ prerogatives to conduct oversight and represent their constituents.

“I request immediate support from other countries that believe in democracy and human rights to put a halt to this arbitrariness and abuses that Mrs. Dina Boluarte is committing in alliance with the police and other political authorities,” Luque said.

Family and friends of the detainees who gathered at the gates with the legislators were also denied access to the campus.

Nearly 50 demonstrators and one police officer have died in the unrest that 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, took office 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.

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