Seventeen people were killed during renewed protests Monday in Peru calling for President Dina Boluarte to resign, per The Guardian. The anti-government fervor following former President Pedro Castillo’s arrest last month has pushed the death toll to 39, per Reuters.
“We ask the forces of law and order to make a legal, necessary and proportional use of force and we urge the state prosecutor’s office to carry out a prompt investigation to clarify the facts,” tweeted Peru’s Ombudsman office on Monday, according to a translation.
Castillo was arrested on a charge of rebellion in early December after attempting to dissolve Congress and take full control of the government. Boluarte, who became the first female leader in Peru’s history, called for a political truce and a national unity government.
Monday’s impassioned clashes occurred in the southern region of Puno near the airport in Juliaca. Footage and photos on social media showed protesters throwing stones and fighting security forces shooting into crowds.
While the Peruvian people demand Boluarte resign and Castillo be freed from jail, Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said in a televised address, “We will not cease in our defense of the rule of law” — and that the protests were financed by “foreign interests and the dark money of drug trafficking,” according to The Guardian.
Otárola added in his address on Monday that the protesters were trying to “destroy the country” and blamed Castillo’s failed coup d’etat for the unrest. He said he regretted the death toll, but that the government was fighting for the “peace and tranquility of 33 million Peruvians.”
“We are very concerned about the continued escalation of violence in the protests in Peru, which has led to the loss of dozens of lives,” tweeted a branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross responsible for Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, according to a translation.
Boluarte — a lawyer who was elected vice president on the ticket that brought Castillo to power in July 2021 — became president while thousands of farmers were navigating Peru’s worst drought in a half-century, the avian flu ravaged wildlife and a fifth wave of COVID-19 struck.
“What you are asking for is a pretext to continue generating chaos,” she said during a “national agreement” meeting on Monday, adding that her frustrated constituents didn’t understand the ramifications of their own demands. Nonetheless, calls for her resignation continue.
Henry Rebaza, a health ministry official in Puno, told state television TV Peru that 68 citizens including two teenagers were injured on Monday, per Reuters. A little boy, meanwhile, died en route to a hospital.
Boluarte reportedly proposed moving general elections forward last month and holding them in April 2024. Javier Torres, editor of regional news outlet Noticias Ser, tweeted Monday that bringing them forward “is urgent” — and called for Boluarte to resign “as soon as possible.”
As it stands, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said it will conduct an official three-day visit to Peru beginning on Wednesday to evaluate the situation first-hand in the capital of Lima and other cities.