Peru President urges Congress to bring elections forward amid deadly protests

LIMA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Peru’s President Dina Boluarte, who said she is leading an interim government, called on the country’s Congress to approve a proposal to bring forward general elections in a press conference at the presidential palace on Saturday.

Boluarte, a former vice president of Peru, took over the presidency earlier this month after left-wing then-President Pedro Castillo attempted to illegally dissolve Congress and was arrested.

Since then, protests have erupted across the country, killing at least 17 people. According to the authorities, another five died as a result of the protests.

Responding to protesters on Saturday calling for her resignation, Boluarte said “that doesn’t solve the problem” and that she had done her part by sending the bill to Congress.

On Friday, Peru’s Congress rejected proposed constitutional reform to bring elections forward to December 2023. Some congressmen have called on the legislature to reconsider the proposal.

“I am asking that voting to bring about elections be reconsidered,” Boluarte said, criticizing congressmen who previously abstained.

She also dismissed calls for a constituent assembly, saying it was “not the time”. Some left-wing leaders have called on the assembly, which would redraft Peru’s 1993 constitution, to strengthen the state’s role in the economy.

Boluarte said there would also be a reshuffle of her cabinet in the coming days after the education minister and culture minister resigned on Friday.

“We will reshuffle the cabinet to have knowledgeable ministers in each sector,” she said.

The resignation of the cabinet on Friday raises questions about the longevity of the Boluarte government, which has been rocked by political turmoil.

Protests since the arrest of former President Castillo, who is being held in custody on charges of rebellion and conspiracy, have paralyzed Peru’s transport system, closed airports and blocked highways.

On Wednesday, the Boluarte government declared a state of emergency, gave police special powers and restricted civil rights, including the right to assembly.

Protesters have also blocked Peru’s borders, stranding tourists and strangling trade.

“We want the immediate closure of Congress; we want the resignation of Dina Boluarte,” Rene Mendoza, a protester on the border with Bolivia, told Reuters. “Today the Peruvian people are mourning. … All of Peru is in a struggle.”

The head of the Peruvian armed forces, Manuel Gomez, pounded on the demonstrators during the press conference. “These evil people are moving from violent to terrorist actions.”

Later on Saturday, police raided the headquarters of a leftist party and a peasant group in the capital Lima on suspicion of protecting such “violent” actors, the agents claimed.

Left-wing politicians rejected the raids. “The state of emergency is being used to commit abuses,” said lawmaker Sigrid Bazan, who visited one of the sites.

Reporting by Marco Aquino and Kylie Madry; Additional reporting by Monica Machicao; Edited by Chizu Nomiyama, Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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