LIMA (AP) – Thousands of Peruvians from remote Andean areas protested Thursday in the Andean nation’s capital to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and support her predecessor Pedro Castillo, in a day when some registered clashes with police the center of Lima.
In the latest of the demonstrations that have rocked the nation for more than a month and left at least 55 dead, protesters walked the streets of Lima’s historic center and, after approaching the famous San Martín Square, were prevented by hundreds of riot police on entering.
People stayed peacefully on a nearby street. Some of the protesters threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. Authorities also evicted several people who were staying at a nearby park.
During the night, a building near the protest site caught fire and firefighters tried to put out the blaze, which spread several meters into the sky. It was not clear if he had anything to do with the protests and there were no reports of injuries.
So far, the protests have mainly been registered in the southern Andes. The demonstrations began after Boluarte, Castillo’s vice president, was sworn in as the new president on December 7, despite promising exactly a year earlier that she would step down if the president were ousted.
Castillo was ousted after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.
The Ombudsman’s office reported Thursday that a man died in clashes with police in the Arequipa region of the south of the country, bringing the death toll to 55. The agency said on its Twitter account that 10 people were injured during the crash and were transferred to health centers.
Peru is a highly centralized country and around a third of its 33 million people live in the Lima metropolitan area.
“In my own country, the voices of the Andes, the voices of the majority, have been silenced,” said Florencia Fernández, a lawyer based in Cusco. “We had to travel to this aggressive city, to this centralist city, and we say ‘The Andes have descended'”.
Campesino Samuel Acero, president of Cusco’s regional struggle committee, told The Associated Press as he walked through Lima’s historic center that people are “going out now to fight, going out to claim their just rights.”
He added that in Cusco, “in the land of natural gas, we don’t have natural gas and LPG is expensive for us… On the other hand, here in Lima, in this desert, they bring our gas.”
Acero complained that Machu Picchu, the Valley of the Incas and other archaeological treasures were visited by tourists from all over the world, but “those who make money from tourism are a few who don’t even live in Cusco…millions of qualified voters.” that Cusco has don’t get anything from tourism, that makes us too angry”.
The concentration in Lima also reflects the increase in anti-government mobilizations that the capital has registered in recent days.
“Lima, which had not joined the protests at all in the first phase in December, decided to join after the Juliaca massacre,” said Omar Coronel, a professor of political science at the Catholic University of Peru, referring to the 18 killed people this city on 9.
Paulina Consac, 56, walked alongside a group of more than 2,000 people from Cusco marching peacefully in front of the Supreme Court in Lima’s historic center, carrying a giant Bible in her arms. “Our God says: ‘You shall not kill your neighbor.’ “Dina Boluarte kills, she fights between brothers,” he said. “My brothers need advice, they need support, they need water, they need God, that’s why I was able to come,” he added.
Boluarte has said he supports a plan to bring forward the 2026 presidential and parliamentary elections to 2024. Many of the disaffected say there is no possible dialogue with a government they believe has unleashed so much violence.
Activists dubbed Thursday’s demonstration the “March of the Four Suyos” in reference to the four cardinal points of the Inca Empire. It’s the same name that led to another massive mobilization in 2000, when thousands of Peruvians took to the streets to protest the autocratic government of Alberto Fujimori, who resigned months later.
But there are some differences between those demonstrations and this week’s.
“In 2000, people were protesting against a regime already entrenched in power,” Cardenas said. “In this case you are facing a government that has only been in power for a month and is incredibly fragile.”
Furthermore, the 2000 mobilizations had a centralized leadership and were led by political parties. “What we have now is something much more fragmented,” Coronel said.
The protests over the past month have been largely grassroots efforts without clear leadership.
“There has never been a mobilization of this magnitude. A common sense is already installed in the peripheries that there is an urgent need to change everything,” said Gustavo Montoya, historian at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. “I have the feeling that we are witnessing a historic change.”
The protests have grown to such an extent that protesters are unlikely to accept Boluarte’s resignation. Now they are calling for a structural reform, also in view of the worsening crisis of confidence among the ruling elites.
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