At least 17 dead on worst day of anti-government protests in southern Peru

At least 17 people have died and 68 others have been injured in Peru’s Puno region, bordering Bolivia. President. Peter Castillo.

With that, the death toll in clashes with security forces has risen to 39 since December, following the expulsion and arrest of Castillo, who sought to illegally dissolve Congress and reorganize the judiciary.

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Seven more people have died in road crashes related to the lockdowns during the protests, according to official figures.

Protesters are also calling for the resignation of the president Dina Bolartethe closure of Congress, a new Constitution and the release of Castillo, who is serving 18 months in preventive prison accused of “rebellion”, an accusation that the former president denies.

The prime minister, Alberto Otarolaregretted the overnight deaths in Puno in a statement, but added that some 9,000 people wanted to take control of the city’s airport and that 2,000 of these people initiated an attack against the police, using “magic weapons and weapons with double charge of gunpowder”. .

It was an “organized and systematic attack, vandalism and violent activity against Puno institutions,” he said.

Among Monday’s victims is a minor, the ombudsman’s office said, which also earlier said a newborn had died during an ambulance transfer to a hospital in Puno, which was delayed due to a lockdown.

The injured also include police officers who cannot be evacuated due to problems at the airport, according to authorities.

“We ask the police to make a legal, necessary and proportionate use of force and we urge the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out a rapid investigation to clarify the facts,” the ombudsman wrote on Twitter.

The regional health director of Puno, horny ismaelhe told RPP local radio that some of the dead and wounded in the region had gunshot wounds to their bodies.

Police and security forces have been accused by human rights groups of using firearms and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The army says, for its part, that the protesters are using weapons and homemade explosives.

“I want to make a call to the government. How can we have so many dead?” said Jorge Sotomayor, head of the intensive care unit at the Carlos Monge Medrano hospital in Puno.

In Juliaca, Puno, witness of Reuters he recorded images of gunfire and smoke in the streets as protesters took cover behind large metal plates and street signs and threw rocks at police with improvised slingshots.

Claims “it’s out of my hands”

Other witness footage showed people performing CPR on a man who lay motionless on the ground in a bloodstained sweater; and others seriously injured in a crowded hospital waiting room.

Local television images showed looting of businesses in Puno during the night. Meanwhile, in the Andean region of Ayacucho, the operation of its airport has been suspended due to security measures, the Transport and Communications Ministry said.

Social protests were reactivated last week after a break for the end-of-year holidays, and are now concentrated in the Puno region with roadblocks and trade towards the neighboring country. Since the resumption of demonstrations, serious clashes with police had been reported after protesters attempted to seize the city’s airport.

President Boluarte told the Government Palace shortly before the nine deaths were made public that it was unclear what they were calling for in Puno, where the protests were led by indigenous groups.

“I have already explained to them that the four political points (which are required) are not in my hands. The only thing that was in my hands, which is the progress of the elections, we have already proposed,” he said.

On Boluarte’s initiative, Congress took a first step in December to bring forward the general election by two years, in April 2024. The proposal must be approved in a second vote scheduled for February or March.

“What you are asking is a pretext to continue generating chaos in cities, I invite you to reflect, brothers and sisters”, said the president in a speech before a meeting with various institutions in the country.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced it will visit Peru from Wednesday to Friday this week, visiting Lima and other cities to assess the situation in the South American country.

Previously, the Peruvian government announced that it had banned nine Bolivian citizens from entering the country, including the leftist former president. Evo Moralesstaunch defender of the deposed Castillo and critic of Boluarte.

Last week the Peruvian Defense Minister, Jorge Chavezhe said that, according to intelligence reports, foreigners were detected entering the country who fueled the protests with “separatist” plans.

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