Tensions rise as thousands of protesters expected in Peru capital
The South American country has been rocked by more than a month of protests, mostly in the southern and eastern areas, since the ouster and arrest of ex-President Pedro Castillo.
Published: 19th January 2023 10:33 PM | Last Updated: 19th January 2023 10:33 PM | A+A A-
LIMA: Peru's capital city was on edge Thursday as thousands of protesters were expected in Peru's capital for an anti-government rally following weeks of unrest that have left 43 people dead.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of parliament and immediate fresh elections.
Police said they were on "maximum alert" and deployed 11,800 officers in Lima ahead of expected trouble. A demonstrator was killed on Wednesday in clashes with police in the country's south, bringing the death toll from the protests to 43, according to Peru's human rights ombudsman.
The South American country has been rocked by more than a month of protests, mostly in the southern and eastern areas, since the ouster and arrest of Boluarte's predecessor Pedro Castillo in December.
On Wednesday, a 35-year-old woman was killed in the southern Puno region, according to a hospital statement. At least one other person, a 30-year-old man, was injured in the demonstrations, the statement said.
Images shared on social media also showed a torched police station. A local television station said officers were rescued by helicopter. Thousands of protesters from rural areas are trying to keep up pressure on the government, defying a state of emergency declared to maintain order.
"We have 11,800 police officers in the streets to control unrest, we have more than 120 vans and 49 military vehicles, and also the armed forces are participating," said Lima police chief Victor Zanabria.
Protesters are undeterred, though.
"We are coming to make our voices heard. We are tremendously forgotten," villager Edwin Condori, 43, from the Cusco region, told AFP.
One of Peru's biggest labour unions, the General Confederation of Workers, has called a strike for Thursday, though there were no visible signs of such a strike in Lima by late morning.
'She doesn't represent us'
On Tuesday, many poor and Indigenous demonstrators made their presence felt in Lima, where police used smoke canisters against marchers who had gathered ahead of Thursday's larger mobilization.
Dozens marched through the capital's streets to Plaza San Martin, the historic epicentre of demonstrations.
"In Lima, the struggle has more weight. When they repress us in our regions, no one mentions it," said Abdon Felix Flores, a 30-year-old villager from Andahuaylas in the Cusco region.
Flores said he was ready "to give my life" to ensure change.
Boluarte urged protesters flooding into Lima to gather "peacefully and calmly."
"We have come in an organized way to take over Lima, to paralyze Lima, to be heard," said Jesus Gomez, an agricultural engineer from Chumbivilcas in the Cusco region.
But the president warned protesters that "the rule of law cannot be hostage to the whims" of a single group of people.
"The Peruvian people's struggle will not end tomorrow," Geronimo Lopez, the general secretary of the General Confederation of Workers, said in a press conference late on Wednesday night. "It will continue as long as Mrs Dina Boluarte doesn't listen to the people," added Lopez.
"This is a fair, democratic mobilization."
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A rival "march for peace" also took place in Lima on Tuesday, with dozens of members from community groups and political parties wearing white T-shirts in rejection of the protests against Boluarte.
"We do not want violence in our country. I know that now there is a group that disagrees with the current government, but nevertheless, it is not the way to carry out a protest," 56-year-old merchant Cesar Noa told AFP.
Protesters have maintained almost 100 roadblocks across Peru.
Castillo was removed from office and arrested on December 7 after attempting to dissolve the country's legislature and rule by decree, amid multiple corruption investigations.
Boluarte, who was Castillo's vice president, succeeded him. But despite Boluarte belonging to the same left-wing party, Castillo supporters have rejected her, even accusing her of being a "traitor."