Peru: Protesters mourn their dead as clashes persist

Anti-government protests continue in Peru where well-attended funeral vigils have been punctuated by clashes with security forces, prompting the United States to call on all parties to “restrain”.

At the same time, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) arrived in Lima to assess “the human rights situation in the context of social protests”, which have left at least 40 dead since then. a month and extend to other regions, especially in the tourist Cusco.

Amid social tension, the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday opened an investigation into alleged “genocide” against President Dina Boluarte, who imposed a curfew in the Aymara (Amerindian people) region of Puno to curb protests violent which, between Monday and Tuesday alone, left 17 civilians dead and a policeman burned in his patrol car, according to the institution.

The epicenter of the protests is in this region on the border with Bolivia, where thousands of residents marched on Wednesday in the streets of Juliaca, 1,300 km south of Lima, with the coffins of the 17 civilian victims.

“Dina shot me dead,” was written on Edgar Huaranca’s white coffin, carried on the shoulders of six members of his family.

In the procession, the scenes of anger and pain multiply as people begin to bid farewell to their dead and promise to continue the fight until they obtain the resignation of what they consider to be an illegitimate government.

– Mourning and curfew –

Peru declared national mourning on Wednesday in honor of the dead in the Puno region, where a three-day night curfew is in effect to try to contain protests.

The roadblocks have spread to eight of the country’s 25 regions, affecting Tacna, Moquegua, Puno, Cusco, Apurimac, Arequipa, Madre de Dios and Amazonas, according to Peruvian authorities.

Protesters clash with members of the riot police in Cusco (Peru) on January 11, 2023 (AFP – Ivan Flores)

In the tourist city of Cusco, former capital of the Inca Empire, clashes between hundreds of demonstrators and the police left 22 injured, including six police officers, one of them in serious condition, said the Ministry of Health.

In Arequipa, Peru’s second city, hundreds of people also demonstrated against the government.

In Tacna, on the border with Chile, an indefinite strike has begun, marked by episodes of vandalism such as the burning of toll booths and the attempted looting of a shopping center.

The Puno region began an indefinite strike a week ago to demand the resignation of Ms. Boluarte, immediate presidential and legislative elections and the convening of a Constituent Assembly.

The regional governments of Puno and Cusco are demanding Boluarte’s resignation as the first step to resolving the crisis.

– “Moderation” and human rights –

The commissioners of the IACHR were received by Dina Boluarte at the Government Palace, seat of the Peruvian executive.

Peru: demonstrations against the government continue (AFP - Emmanuelle MICHEL, Sophie RAMIS, Sabrina BLANCHARD)
Peru: demonstrations against the government continue (AFP – Emmanuelle MICHEL, Sophie RAMIS, Sabrina BLANCHARD)

“We are going to check the human rights situation. We regret the loss of life during the demonstrations,” said Edgar Stuardo Ralon, who heads the mission which will remain in Peru until January 13 and will meet with the authorities, the victims and their relatives in Lima, Ica and Arequipa.

Ms. Boluarte was vice-president until December 7, 2022, the date of the dismissal and arrest of socialist president Pedro Castillo, accused of an attempted coup for having wanted to dissolve the Parliament which was about to oust him power.

According to the government, former Bolivian President Evo Morales is linked to the protests, which is why he has been banned from entering Peru until further notice. Mr Morales, who ruled Bolivia between 2006 and 2019, has remained active in Peruvian politics since leftist former President Castillo came to power in July 2021.

Police throw tear gas in Cusco (Peru) on January 11, 2023 (AFP - Ivan Flores)
Police throw tear gas in Cusco (Peru) on January 11, 2023 (AFP – Ivan Flores)

Protests have resumed for a week after a year-end truce. Mostly peaceful, some have degenerated into violent acts such as storming airports and attacking public buildings.

The police and armed forces also responded with violence.

In this context, the United States called on Wednesday for “restraint” and a “minimal” use of force against demonstrators.

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