Thousands of demonstrators challenge the president, two more dead and a building on fire in the clashes

Peru is sinking into chaos. Thousands of people, especially from the Andes, demonstrated to demand the resignation of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte Thursday in downtown Lima, where violent clashes broke out between the protesters and the many police officers deployed.

The clashes left two new dead in the south of the country. In Arequipa, Peru’s second city, violent clashes around the airport resulted in one death – a man in his thirties – and ten injured, according to the office of the People’s Ombudsman. A little earlier, the office had announced the death of another man, injured the day before in clashes in Macusani, near Puno (south) on the Bolivian border. This brings to 45 (44 demonstrators and a policeman) the number of people who have lost their lives in the unrest since December 7, the date of the start of the crisis.

building on fire

In Lima, a large part of the demonstrators marched calmly. But violent clashes took place in the city center, demonstrators throwing stones, cobblestones or bottles at the police, or confronting them directly armed with sticks.

In several places, the forces of order had to retreat under pressure before regaining their position. In particular in the city center, in the area of ​​Abancay and Pierola avenues, noted AFP journalists. The security forces made extensive use of tear gas.

A building on fire in Lima, Peru, January 19, 2023.
A building on fire in Lima, Peru, January 19, 2023. – AFP

A downtown building near Plaza San Martin, the epicenter of protests in Lima, went up in flames for unknown causes on Thursday evening.

“We have 11,800 police on the streets for riot control. We have more than 120 vans and 49 military vehicles and also the participation of the armed forces,” General Victor Zanabria, chief of police for the Lima region, said in the morning.

Emergency state

The government on Sunday declared a state of emergency for 30 days in Lima, Cuzco, Callao and Puno, which allows the army to intervene to maintain order and suspends freedom of assembly and movement. But, according to the union leader, the organizers of the demonstration in Lima did not seek authorization.

The unrest in Peru erupted after the dismissal and arrest on December 7 of left-wing president Pedro Castillo, accused of having attempted a coup d’etat in order to dissolve the parliament which was preparing to oust him from power.

The crisis is also a reflection of the huge gap between the capital and the poor provinces that supported President Castillo, of Amerindian origin, and saw his election as revenge for Lima’s contempt.

President Boluarte had called for calm on Monday: “We know that they want to ”take” Lima in view of everything that comes out on the networks. Let them take Lima, yes, but in peace and calm”. Boluarte, who was Castillo’s vice-president, succeeded him in accordance with the Constitution. She comes from the same party as him but the demonstrators see her as a “traitor”.

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