Peru’s new president calls elections while Castillo speaks up



CNN

Peru’s new President Dina Boluarte proposed during a televised address early Monday morning that parliamentary elections should be brought forward by two years to April 2024 amid ongoing protests across the country.

“Interpreting the will of the citizens… I have decided to take the initiative to reach an agreement with the Congress of the Republic to bring forward the general elections to April 2024,” Boluarte said in the televised address.

Boluarte became Peru’s first female president last week after lawmakers ousted her predecessor, Pedro Castillo.

She initially ruled out snap elections last week, but protests have erupted across the country demanding political change, killing at least two people and prompting the United Nations Human Rights Office to express concern over escalating tensions to rent.

“As violence mounts amid ongoing protests in Peru, we are deeply concerned that the situation may further escalate,” said their spokeswoman Marta Hurtado. “Given the number of protests planned for this week, including strikes, we urge all involved to exercise restraint.”

Since last week, protests have erupted in cities across the country in support of Castillo, who is currently in a seven-day provisional detention ordered by Peru’s Supreme Court and has not accepted his deportation for calling Boluarte a “usurper”.

According to the radio and television station Radio Programas del Perú, demonstrators have called for new parliamentary elections, the dissolution of the congress and the creation of a new constituent assembly.

On Saturday, protesters also demonstrated in the city of Andahuaylas, where at least 20 people, including four police officers, were injured, according to the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office.

The Peruvian Ministry of Health said on Sunday evening that two people have died and three have been hospitalized as a result of the protests in the Apurímac region, where Andahuaylas province is located.

Castillo on Monday insisted he is still President of Peru, according to a series of tweets published on his Twitter account. He was charged with attempting to dissolve the nation’s Congress and calling for new elections.

“I am unconditionally loyal to the popular and constitutional mandate that I hold as President and will not resign or relinquish my high and sacred functions,” part of the message said.

Castillo also claimed he was “kidnapped” and “humiliated” and “abused” and is demanding his own release, according to a handwritten letter he wrote, also posted to his account on Monday.

Castillo’s attorney Ronald Atencio has confirmed the authenticity of the letter and tweets to CNN. The tweets were authorized by the former president to be written on his behalf.

Demonstrators take over the Panamericana in Arequipa, Peru on December 12, 2022.

Police officers clash with protesters in Arequipa, Peru, on December 12, 2022.

On Monday, Alfredo Rodriguez Ballon Airport in Arequipa, Peru’s largest southern city, was temporarily closed amid protests, according to a statement from Peru’s Andean Airports, tweeted by the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.

“Our Alfredo Rodriguez Ballón Airport in the city of Arequipa was attacked by a group of protesters who entered through the fence, destroyed the security infrastructure and set the security gate on fire, endangering the safety of the passengers, our team and the air operations in danger,” the statement said.

Images of the scene showed smoke in the distance as protesters walked on the airport runway.

The airport evacuated those in the terminal and later Monday officials told local media the situation was “under control”.

“The situation in Arequipa is under control, the police have the airport (inside) under control. We urge citizens to exercise their right to protest, but in a peaceful way and not endangering people’s lives,” Angel Manrique, from the Arequipa Ombudsman’s Office, said in an interview with local radio RPP on Monday.

In footage from the southern city of Ica, a vehicle was overturned and protesters blocked roads. Police were seen clashing with protesters who threw stones at emergency crews.

On Sunday, at least 50 people, including police officers and airport workers, were held as “hostages” after attacks and “acts of vandalism” by protesters at Huancabamba de Andahuaylas Airport in the city of Andahuaylas, Peru’s airport company and commercial aviation, said in a statement.

The airport was subsequently closed, the organization said, adding that it had called on the national police for support and reinforcements and helped “protect the lives of the people being held hostage.” The organization did not provide any information on the condition of the hostages.

Peru’s Corporation of Airports and Commercial Aviation accused the protesters of setting fire to the airport’s transmission room and fuel room and surrounding the terminal with “acts of violence,” it said in a statement. It also said the runway and essential equipment had been “seriously affected”.

The country has been on the brink since Castillo’s fall last week.

Many Peruvians have called for a change in the political guard, according to a September poll by the Institute for Peruvian Studies (IEP), which found that 60% of respondents supported snap elections to renew both the presidency and Congress.

Boluarte’s rise to the presidency will not necessarily relieve Peru’s poisoned and embittered political landscape.

Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, a professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), told CNN that Boluarte “has no recognized political career. And without partisan support, political party or social organization behind it, it is weak from the start.”

“Everyone knows when Dina Boluarte’s government began, but no one can be sure how long it will last,” he said.

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