At least 17 people have been killed in a renewed clash during anti-government protests in Peru
Peru’s month-old political crisis took a turn for the worse on Monday after at least 17 people were killed in clashes with security forces.
It was the deadliest day yet in protests calling for early elections and the release of imprisoned former president Pedro Castillo.
This new chapter of bloodshed took place in the southeastern city of Juliaca, in the Puno region, an official at the local ombudsman’s office told AFP.
The official said the previous death toll of 12 had risen as five of the 40 or so people wounded in the clashes succumbed to their injuries.
Like others over the past month, these protesters have been calling for the ouster of President Dina Boulwart, who took power after the ouster and arrest of then-President Castillo on December 7.
Castillo’s dismissal after he tried to dissolve Congress and begin ruling by decree – and he faced several corruption investigations – caused weeks of nationwide clashes in a country reeling from years of political instability.
Demonstrators, angry at the disqualification of leftist Castillo, demand that Pouluart resign and that new elections be held immediately. It has already been moved from 2026 to April 2024.
Overall, with these new deaths, the clashes that erupted after Castillo’s ouster have so far left 39 dead across the country.
An official at the Calos Monje Hospital told a Peruvian television channel that those killed on Monday in Juliaca had gunshot wounds.
“The police are shooting at us,” one of the demonstrators, who declined to be named, told AFP.
“We ask Dina to resign,” he added. Accept the fact that people don’t want you.
“What is happening is that Peruvians are slaughtering each other. I ask for calm,” Juliaca’s mayor, Oscar Caceres, said in a desperate plea for peace.
Alberto Otarola, the new president’s chief of staff, said thousands of protesters approached the airport on Monday, and about 2,000 of them attacked police as they tried to storm the facility with improvised weapons and gunpowder.
On Saturday, demonstrators had already tried to storm Juliaca Airport, which is protected by police and soldiers.
Juliaca, located in the Puno region on the border with Bolivia, is home to many people of the indigenous Aymara group. Puno has been the epicenter of anti-government protests since the latest crisis erupted. An indefinite strike was declared on 4 January.
Protests against the Pulwart government stopped around the New Year holiday but resumed on that day.
As of Monday, protesters were blocking roads in six of the country’s 25 provinces, including areas popular with tourists.
Boulwart was Castillo’s vice president and, like himself, a leftist. But many indigenous people call her a traitor who does not stand up for their cause.
In another development on Monday, the government said it was denying entry to Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia, accusing him of trying to interfere in Peru’s affairs.
Morales, who was his country’s first indigenous president, has expressed support for the protests against the Poluartes, particularly in the Aymara-Puno ethnic region bordering Bolivia.