Conflicts & War

Protests resume in Peru after holiday “truce”

Lima, Jan 4 (EFE).- Supporters of ousted President Alberto Castillo mounted protests in various parts of Peru on Wednesday following the expiration of organizers’ self-proclaimed moratorium for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Confrontations last month between demonstrators and security forces resulted in 28 deaths, 22 of them attributable to shots fired by police and soldiers.

Most of the fatalities followed the transitional government’s imposition of a state of emergency entailing the suspension of some constitutional rights.

The transitional president, Dina Boluarte, and Prime Minister Alberto Otarola paid a visit early Wednesday to a newly established crisis center in Lima, where the defense minister, retired Gen. Jorge Chavez, demonstrated the systems used to monitor the situation “in real time.”

Peru’s highway administration, Sutran, published a map late Wednesday showing active roadblocks at a score of points in five different regions.

The majority of the trouble spots were in the southern region of Puno, including a blockage at a key border crossing into neighboring Bolivia.

The map likewise displayed obstructions on roads in the adjacent southern regions of Arequipa, Cuzco and Madre de Dios.

Peruvian media outlets said that security forces set up a checkpoint outside the international airport in Cuzco city, the gateway to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the country’s leading tourist attraction.

A mobilization was called in Ayacucho, Peru’s second city, for e Wednesday evening, and EFE saw protesters march peacefully to the airport and then set out for the city center.

The protesters want Boluarte and Congress to step down in favor of early general elections and the installation of a constitutional convention to draft a replacement for the charter enacted in 1993 under President Alberto Fujimori – now serving life in prison for massacres and embezzlement during his 10 years in power.

Boluarte, Peru’s sixth president since 2016, said Wednesday that her administration will continue “working tirelessly to leave behind the instability and uncertainty” plaguing the Andean nation.

The present crisis began on the morning of Dec. 7, when Castillo announced that he was dissolving the opposition-controlled Congress and would convene elections for a constitutional convention.

He took that drastic step just as Congress was about to start a third round of impeachment proceedings against him for alleged corruption.

Multiple members of his Cabinet resigned and then-Vice President Boluarte echoed lawmakers in labeling the move a coup. Congress voted to remove Castillo for “permanent moral incapacity” and installed Boluarte as the new president.

Castillo, detained by his own security detail while trying to reach the Mexican Embassy in Lima on Dec. 7, has remained in custody since then.

From behind bars, he has denounced Boluarte as a “usurper” who bears responsibility for the deaths of protesters.

A number of Latin American countries, including Cuba, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia, continue to recognize Castillo as Peru’s legitimate president.

Castillo, a 53-year-old former schoolteacher from the poor northern region of Cajamarca, had no previous experience of public office when he ran for president on the ticket of a small leftist party and narrowly won in a runoff against rightist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the disgraced Alberto.

Shunned and ridiculed by the traditional governing elite in Lima, Castillo faced hostility from Congress and allegations of corruption practically from the moment he took office in July 2021.

EFE dub/dr

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