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Peru’s Violence Blamed for 47 Deaths

National

Protestors clash with security forces during a protest demanding early elections and the release of jailed former President Pedro Castillo in Juliaca, Peru on January 9, 2023 | Image by Hugo Courotto/REUTERS

Peruvian protesters have said they will march to Lima in the coming days, and the government has promised more steps to restore peace to the country, where nearly 50 people have been killed in weeks of unrest.

The protests started in December when Pedro Castillo, then president of Peru, attempted to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. He also attempted to enact an immediate national curfew and called for all citizens to give up illegal firearms.

Castillo had pledged to address long-standing issues of poverty and inequality. He was arrested on charges of attempting a coup after the decree was widely criticized as unconstitutional and replaced by his vice president, Dina Boluarte.

Despite attempts to calm the situation, supporters of Castillo, many living in poor, rural areas of the country, have taken to the streets.

As The New York Times reported, some protestors are calling for Castillo to be reinstated, which would not work politically in Lima and would be unconstitutional.

Requests for new general elections have also been made. Election officials say that this could happen as soon as this summer or as late as next year.

Meanwhile, the violence of this unrest erupted on Monday, seeing at least 17 people and one police officer killed in the chaos of demonstrations in the city of Juliaca, which is to the south and close to the border with Bolivia.

Victor Rojas, Peru’s interior minister, said that the protests in Juliaca started peacefully on Monday, but around 3 p.m., violence reportedly started when an estimated 9,000 protesters, some with homemade weapons and explosives, tried to take control of the local airport and attack police officers.

“Their purpose is to create chaos,” Rojas said. “They were seeking these deaths.”

However, human rights groups and protesters have said Peru’s security forces have killed civilians without good reason.

“What happened yesterday was really a massacre,’’ said Jennie Dador of the National Coordinator for Human Rights of Peru. “These were extrajudicial killings.”

This unusual burst of violence made it harder for the new president to get the country back on track.

The most recent violence happened in the region of Puno, which has a substantial indigenous population. The violence ensued after thousands of villagers from remote Aymara communities came to Juliaca, according to The New York Times.

Monday’s violence in Juliaca was the deadliest single fight between civilians and armed people in Peru in at least 20 years. Guerrilla groups killed at least 70,000 people from the 1980s through 2000. Many of those killed were also civilians, according to The New York Times.

During the recent unrest, local TV showed people breaking into public prosecutors’ offices and a supermarket in Juliaca. They also reportedly set fire to the home of a lawmaker from an opposition party.

So far 39 civilians and one police officer have been killed during protests, and seven people have died in traffic accidents caused by the unrest or because protesters blocked roads.

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