Peruvian protesters have erected new blockades and expanded their demonstrations to several regions, as calls for new elections and the release of detained ex-president Pedro Castillo grow across the country.
Hundreds used burning tires, lumber and rocks on Monday to block a runway at an airport in Arequipa, the country’s second-largest city, in anger over Castillo’s trial and arrest, while new roadblocks were erected in other major cities.
Clashes between demonstrators and police in the southern city of Andahuelas left two people dead and at least five injured — including a police officer — as demonstrators attempted to storm that city’s airport.
Protests have widened, particularly in northern Peru and Andean towns, despite a pledge to hold early elections by President Dina Polarte, who was quickly sworn in to replace Castillo after he was sacked last week.
“I have decided to introduce a bill to reach an agreement with Congress to advance the general election date to April 2024,” Boloart said early Monday in an address to the nation, adding that she would introduce the legislation in the “coming days.”
But the promise appeared to do little to quell public anger over the impeachment of Castillo, a former teacher and union leader who was voted down by lawmakers on Wednesday after he sought to dissolve Congress before an impeachment vote.
The former president was arrested soon after, and prosecutors charged him with insurrection and conspiracy.
Protests quickly erupted across the country, with many supporters of the detained former leader demanding elections in Peru rather than allowing Pollarte to remain in power until Castillo’s term ends in 2026. Some protesters have also called for Congress to be shut down.
In a handwritten message posted to Twitter on Monday, Castillo called for a constituent assembly. He vowed that he would “not quit” and called Polarte a “usurper”. He also said, “People should not fall into the trap of their own dirty games in the new elections.”
He said he was “humiliated, incommunicado, abused and kidnapped”.
Reporting from the capital, Lima, on Monday afternoon before Castillo’s letter was announced, Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez said the situation remains tense as several major roads were closed, including the Pan American Highway, which is critical to getting food to the country. City. .
She said several flights have been canceled due to the disruptions, along with interprovincial buses that run between Lima and other parts of the country. Sanchez stated that “at least a million passengers have been affected.”
On Sunday, December 11, protests were reported in cities across Peru’s interior, including Cajamarca, Arequipa, Huancayo, Cusco and Puno.
Authorities said clashes broke out in Andahuaylas, in the Apurimac region, as demonstrators tried to storm the city’s southern airport. Pictures from the scene broadcast on local television showed protesters launching slingshots and throwing stones as police responded with tear gas.
Eliana Revollar, head of the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office, told a radio station that two young men, aged 15 and 18, died during the clashes “possibly as a result of gunshot wounds.”
Baltazar Lantarón, governor of the Apurimac region, told local TV station Canal that “four injuries were reported, and they were treated at the health centre, three of them [with wounds] to the scalp, with multiple infections.”
Hundreds of people also held protests at the Legislative Palace in Lima, where riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Inside the palace, Congress convened an emergency session to discuss the crisis but was suspended after physical altercations broke out. In photos posted on social media, a man can be seen punching another man from behind and the members push each other in the center of the room.
Prime Minister Pedro Angulo said the newly appointed cabinet headed by Poulwart is also meeting on Sunday evening to assess civil unrest and decide how to respond.
In her speech early Monday, Boulwart also declared a state of emergency in “high conflict” areas, a move that would allow the armed forces to establish more control if needed.
“I have given instructions so that control of the internal order can be restored in peace, without prejudice to the fundamental rights of the people,” said the new president, who lamented the deaths in Apurimac.
Meanwhile, unions and rural organizations representing indigenous people have called for an “indefinite strike” starting Tuesday in support of Castillo, himself the son of a peasant family.
The manifesto from the Peruvian Agrarian and Rural Front demanded Castillo’s immediate release as well as the suspension of Congress, early elections and a new constitution.
The demands for new elections come as recent polls show nearly nine in 10 Peruvians disapprove of the country’s legislature amid years of political scandals and instability. The country is now in office for its sixth president since 2016.
The power struggle continues in the country as the Andean region and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in half a century.
The country of more than 33 million people is also experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, with nearly 4.3 million cases and 217,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
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