Two dead in protests in Peru as new president seeks early elections | News from politics

The teenagers were killed in Andahuaylas amid unrest following the fall and arrest of President Pedro Castillo.

At least two people have been killed in Peru after police clashed with protesters demanding new elections and the release of imprisoned former President Pedro Castillo.

Sunday’s deaths came as protests over Castillo’s impeachment and arrest spread across Peru, particularly to northern and Andean towns.

That followed an announcement by President Dina Boluarte, the country’s vice president who was quickly sworn in as Castillo’s successor last week.

“I have decided to introduce a bill to reach an agreement with Congress to bring the general election forward to April 2024,” Boluarte said in a speech to the nation early Monday, adding that she will introduce the law in the “upcoming… days”.

Castillo, a former school teacher and union leader, was removed from his post by lawmakers on Wednesday after he tried to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote. The former president was arrested shortly afterwards and charged by prosecutors with rebellion and conspiracy.

Protests quickly erupted across the country, with many supporters of the imprisoned former leader demanding that Peru hold elections rather than allow Boluarte to remain in power until Castillo’s term ended in 2026.

Some protesters have also called for the closure of Congress.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Boluarte’s announcement would calm the unrest.

Protests were reported Sunday from cities in central Peru, including Cajamarca, Arequipa, Huancayo, Cusco and Puno.

Clashes erupted in Andahuaylas in the Apurimac region as protesters attempted to storm the southern city’s airport, authorities said. Demonstrators fired slingshots and hurled stones while police responded with tear gas, according to footage of the scene broadcast by local television.

A protester holds up a Bible to police officers as people demonstrate in Lima, Peru, demanding a presidential election and the closure of Congress.
A protester holds up a Bible to police officers during demonstrations demanding new presidential elections after Castillo’s ouster [Gerardo Marin/ Reuters]

Eliana Revollar, head of the Peruvian ombudsman’s office, told a radio station that a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old died “possibly from gunshot wounds” in the clashes.

Baltazar Lantaron, governor of the Apurimac region, told local TV channel Canal N that “four injuries are reported being treated at the health center, three of them [with wounds] on the scalp, with multiple injuries”.

Hundreds of people also protested outside the Palace of Parliament in the Peruvian capital Lima, where riot police used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Inside the palace, Congress had held an emergency session to discuss the crisis but had to be suspended after physical altercations broke out. Pictures posted to social media showed a man hitting another man from behind and members shoving each other in the middle of the chamber.

Prime Minister Pedro Angulo said Boluarte’s newly appointed cabinet will also meet Sunday night to assess the civil unrest and decide how to respond.

Meanwhile, rural unions and organizations representing indigenous peoples have called for an “indefinite strike” due to begin Tuesday in support of Castillo, himself the son of a farming family. The Agrarian and Rural Front of Peru’s statement called for Castillo’s immediate release, as well as the suspension of Congress, early elections and a new constitution.

The calls for new elections come as recent polls show nearly nine in 10 Peruvians disapprove of the country’s legislation.

Peru has now been its sixth president since 2016.

The power struggle in the country continues 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 after recording about 4.3 million cases and 217,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

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