Peru: President Dina Boluarte rules out resigning

Peru’s President Dina Boluarte, whose country is plagued by protests that have killed at least 42 people in five weeks, ruled out on Friday resigning as protesters demand.

“Some voices from supporters of violence and radicals demand my resignation, inciting the population to chaos, disorder and destruction. To them I say responsibly: I will not resign, my commitment is with Peru” , said Ms. Boluarte in a message to the nation broadcast by state television.

Three members of Boluarte’s government resigned in two days: Labor Minister Eduardo Garcia, who disagreed with the government’s handling of the protests, Interior Minister Victor Rojas, and Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations Grecia Rojas. Their successors were sworn in on Friday.

Since the start of the crisis, clashes between demonstrators and the police have left at least 42 dead, including a policeman who was burned alive by the crowd, according to the Defender of the People (ombudsman).

The protests also injured at least 531 people, including 176 police officers, and 329 people were arrested, according to the prosecution.

In Juliaca, a city in the south of the country where clashes left 19 dead at the start of the week, the funerals of the victims follow one another.

“My daughter was earning a living while pursuing her studies. We went shopping. We were two blocks away from the protests and this is what happens, we came back without her”, laments Demetrio Aroquipa, whose daughter, 17-year-old psychology student was shot and killed.

– “I ask forgiveness” –

The protests erupted after the dismissal and arrest on December 7 of Socialist President Pedro Castillo, accused of having attempted to perpetrate a coup by wanting to dissolve the Parliament which was preparing to oust him from power.

Ms. Boluarte, who was Mr. Castillo’s vice-president, succeeded him in accordance with the Constitution and is from the same left-wing party as him. But the demonstrators, who see her as a “traitor”, demand her departure as well as immediate elections.

Funeral of a 17-year-old student shot dead during a demonstration on January 12, 2023 in Lima (AFP – Juan Carlos CISNEROS)

“I cannot stop reiterating my condolences for the deaths of Peruvians in the protest actions. I ask forgiveness for this situation,” Ms. Boluarte said in her message to the nation.

But she refused to convene a constituent assembly, as the demonstrators are also demanding. “We can’t do this overnight,” she pleaded.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which completed an inspection mission in Peru on Friday, called for an impartial investigation into the crackdown on the protests, saying there were signs pointing to “excessive use of force”. .

The Peruvian prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation for “genocide” against Ms. Boluarte and several other senior officials.

Demonstrations and blockades continued on Friday in several regions of Peru, notably in the capital Lima.

New marches also took place in Tacna, 1,220 km southeast of Lima, near Chile. In a statement, Chilean authorities said Thursday they had temporarily closed the border “due to protests near the Peruvian border complex of Santa Rosa”.

Arequipa, the second city of the country, was for its part completely stopped. Roadblocks cut it off from the neighboring regions of Cusco and Puno.

Regional governors and several professional associations in Peru have joined the call for the resignation of President Boluarte.

– 42 dead –

“How many more deaths will maintaining Dina Boluarte as president cost? All Peruvians, left or right, should ask themselves this question. No function can be above human life”, the governor of Puno (south), Richard Hancco, told the press.

The authorities of the Andean regions of Apurimac and Cusco, as well as 12 departmental bars and the National College of Teachers expressed themselves in the same direction.

Arrest of a demonstrator in Lima, January 12, 2023 (AFP - ERNESTO BENAVIDES)
Arrest of a demonstrator in Lima, January 12, 2023 (AFP – ERNESTO BENAVIDES)

The northern regions of the country, the heart of the Peruvian economy where most industries are located, have so far been spared the protests.

The government attributes the unrest to “professional agitators funded by illegal money”.

Police announced the arrest of a trade union leader from the Ayacucho region, Rocio Leandro, accused of financing the protests and recruiting protesters. According to a police spokesman, General Oscar Arriola, Ms Leandro belonged, under the nom de guerre of “Comrade Cusi”, to the defunct Maoist armed group Shining Path.

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