The demonstrations that have rocked Peru since December 7 and have left 46 dead “will continue”, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said on Monday on the eve of a new large rally in Lima.
“The conflicts will continue, and we are working intensively with the defense minister,” Romero told state-run TV Peru.
He also considered that the country was experiencing “one of the highest levels of violence since the 1980s” and the armed conflict between the Peruvian authorities and the revolutionary guerrillas of the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
The minister once again denounced the “funding of the demonstrations” by “a minority group” which “does not show its face”, deploring the some 540 police officers injured. Authorities have repeatedly accused protesters of being “manipulated” and funded by drug traffickers and/or illegal mining operations.
Priding himself on the “professionalism” of the police, he defended police interventions when they are criticized by civil society or abroad.
During the night from Sunday to Monday, the authorities released 192 of the 193 people arrested on Saturday at San Marcos University, where they were staying to be able to participate in the demonstrations.
Several local media and voices of civil society had denounced this controversial operation carried out with an irruption of the police on the campus, muscular searches and with protesters forced to lie down facing the ground.
The European Union on Saturday condemned the violence and the “disproportionate” use of force by the police during the crisis, calling on the government “to guarantee an inclusive dialogue with the participation of civil society and the communities concerned”.
After a large demonstration on January 19, which ended in clashes between police and demonstrators at the end of the day, the general secretary of the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP), Geronimo Lopez, called “for a national mobilization peaceful tomorrow (Tuesday)”.
“The people have led peaceful and civic democratic struggles. We reject any act of violence and any act that goes against public or private entities. Those who create chaos and destruction are people infiltrated by the government”, he asserted.
The demonstrators demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of Parliament and the constitution of a Constituent Assembly.
– “Citadel closed” –
The unrest began on December 7 after the dismissal and arrest of left-wing president Pedro Castillo, accused of having attempted a coup d’etat by wanting to dissolve the Parliament which was preparing to oust him from power.
The crisis is also a reflection of the huge rift between the capital and the impoverished provinces that backed Native American President Castillo and saw his election as revenge for what they feel was Lima’s contempt. Thousands of protesters from impoverished Andean regions arrived last week to demonstrate.
As of Monday, 83 sections of road were still blocked by protesters in eight of Peru’s 25 regions.
In the region of Ica (about 350 km south of Lima), protesters attacked agricultural estates belonging to large exporting companies.
The airports of Arequipa and Juliaca, in the south of the country, remained closed on Monday, said their operator, Aeropuertos Andinos del Peru. Just like the tourist jewel of Machu Picchu which has not welcomed visitors since Saturday.
“The citadel is closed until this issue (the protests) is resolved. The railway line is interrupted, there is no way for tourists to get there. Now we only do ‘ensure the maintenance and conservation of the heritage that must not stop,’ Zenobio Valencia, head of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park, told AFP.
An evacuation operation of more than 400 tourists, stranded for several days, had to be carried out on Saturday, the railway line, the only way to get to the site apart from the march, having been damaged by protesters.