The death toll approaches 50 as protests in Peru continue for 6 weeks
Anti-government demonstrations continued in Peru through the weekend, leaving dozens of Peruvians injured after tensions flared up again between police and protesters across the country. The death toll from the six-week violent protests has risen to 46.
Local television footage in the capital, Lima, showed that police officers used tear gas to repel demonstrators who threw bottles and stones as fires raged in the streets.
In a statement to the media, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said that in the country’s southern Puno region, about 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the town of Elaf.
Romero said a police station in Zebeta, Puno, caught fire.
Health authorities in Elaf reported that eight patients were hospitalized with injuries, including broken arms and legs, eye bruises, and a punctured abdomen.
By late afternoon, 58 people had been injured across the country in the demonstrations, according to a report by Peru’s Ombudsman.
The unrest followed a day of unrest on Thursday, when one of Lima’s most historic buildings was burned to the ground and President Dina Pollorati vowed to get tough on “vandals”.
Officials described the destruction of the building, a nearly century-old mansion in central Lima, as the loss of a “massive asset.” The authorities are investigating the reasons.
Romero claimed on Friday that the fire was “duly planned and arranged”.
Thousands of demonstrators descended on Lima this week, demanding change, and angry at the mounting death toll from the protests, which officially reached 46 on Saturday.
Peru has been rocked by protests since President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December after he tried to dissolve the legislature to prevent an impeachment vote.
Until this week, the unrest was concentrated in southern Peru.
In the Cusco region, Glencore’s main Antapaccay copper mine suspended operations on Friday after protesters attacked the building – one of the largest in the country – for the third time this month.
Airports in Arequipa, Cusco and the southern city of Juliaca were also attacked by protesters, dealing a new blow to Peru’s tourism industry.
“It’s chaos all over the country; you can’t live like this. We are in a state of terrible uncertainty – the economy and the vandalism,” said Leonardo Rojas, a resident of Lima.
The government extended the state of emergency to six regions, restricting some civil rights.
But Bulwart rejected calls for her to resign and hold early elections, instead calling for dialogue and promising to punish those involved in the unrest.
“All the rigor of the law will fall on those who acted in acts of vandalism,” Poulwart said Thursday.
Some locals pointed the finger at Poulwart and accused her of not working to quell the protests, which began on December 7 in response to Castillo’s ouster and arrest.
Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms. Police say the protesters used homemade weapons and explosives.
Meanwhile, authorities have decided to close down the popular tourist site of Machu Picchu amid the protests, the Culture Ministry said Saturday, with hundreds of tourists stranded near the Inca fortress amid deadly unrest.
Prior to Machu Picchu’s closure on Saturday, rail services to the site had already been suspended because the track was damaged by protesters. At least 400 people, including 300 foreigners, are stranded at the foot of the site in Aguas Calientes, calling for evacuation.
“The order was issued to close the network of Inca trails and the fortress of Machu Picchu due to the social situation and to preserve the safety of visitors,” the culture ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Piscacucho is the closest village to Machu Picchu, which is connected by roads. In December, several hundred stranded tourists were evacuated from near the site.