Peruvian armed forces to take control of key infrastructure amid protests By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters demanding the dissolution of Congress as well as democratic elections, rejecting Dina Boluarte as Peru’s president after the ousting of former leader Pedro Castillo, take part in a protest in Arequipa, Peru, on December 13, 2022. REU


By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s armed forces will take control of the “protection” of key infrastructure, its defense minister said on Tuesday, as protests that have left at least six people dead continue across the country after the ousting of its former president.

Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, pledged earlier in the day to work with Congress to see if the next elections could be held sooner than expected and pleaded for calm. She also said she would speak with other regional leaders who have come to the defense of imprisoned former president Pedro Castillo.

The former vice president was sworn in last Wednesday after Castillo illegally sought to dissolve Congress hours before he was swiftly removed from office by lawmakers and arrested soon after.

The move led to angry and at times violent protests by Castillo supporters demanding a new presidential election, which were met by police dispersing tear gas and gunfire in an attempt to quell the unrest.

Boluarte has already pledged to seek a way to hold the elections scheduled for 2026 in April 2024.

“I am arranging a meeting with the (Congress) constitution committee so that together we can shorten the deadline,” she said, adding that she could not change the election schedule without the support of Congress. .

Castillo is being investigated on charges of rebellion and conspiracy. He denounced his detention on Tuesday, while calling on soldiers and police to lay down their arms during a court appearance in a Lima prison.

“I was unjustly and arbitrarily detained,” Castillo said, in remarks posted online by the court. He repeated that he was innocent of the charges against him.

In posts on Twitter shortly after, Castillo said there had been a “massacre of my people” and again called on the armed forces to end the bloodshed.

Later Tuesday, Peru’s Supreme Court ruled that a legal appeal by Castillo was without merit.

Among the victims of the social unrest are five teenagers and a 38-year-old man, according to the country’s ombudsman, who said on Tuesday that six people had been killed during the protests, down from a previous estimate of seven.

Some protesters burned public buildings, attacked police stations and blocked highways while demanding Boluarte’s resignation, a new constitution and the dissolution of Congress.

In Lima, public schools closed on Tuesday, while at least one key court in the capital announced it would also close for the day after stones were thrown at it on Monday.

Three airports, in Apurimac, Arequipa and the tourist hub of Cusco remained closed on Tuesday due to the unrest.

Police reported that there were roadblocks Tuesday morning in 13 of the country’s 24 regions.

In response to the disruptions, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola said the Peruvian government would declare a state of emergency on the road network to ensure free transit.

The country’s armed forces have also been tasked with “protecting” infrastructure, including airports and hydroelectric plants, Otarola told reporters on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic row has played out between Peru’s new president and several left-leaning governments in the region, which came to Castillo’s defense in a joint statement on Monday. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said relations with Peru were now suspended.

Boluarte said she planned to speak with the leaders while defending her predecessor’s arrest.

In a post on Twitter, Jaime Quito, a lawmaker for the Marxist Peru Libre party that Castillo narrowly won in the election last year, blasted both Boluarte and the conservative-dominated Congress as engineers of a Rebellion.

“They declared war on the people,” he wrote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *