A march billed as the “takeover of Lima” escalated Thursday night in Peru’s capital into fighting between protesters and riot police amid stone-throwing and swirls of tear gas.
Thousands of protesters from across the country poured into Lima earlier this week to take part in a massive march demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte after nearly six weeks of unrest that has killed more than 50 people, including a police officer and eight people who died as a result of strikes and blockades.
In a late night televised address, Boluarte said police had the protests under control and those responsible for violence and vandalism would not go “with impunity”, adding “this is not a peaceful march”. She said the “government is steadfast and its cabinet is more united than ever”.
Boluarte claimed the protests had “no social agenda” but rather sought to “break the rule of law, create chaos and disorder and seize power”. She added that attacks on three regional airports had been planned in advance and would be punished with “all the rigors of the law”.
“To the Peruvian people, to those who want to work in peace and to those who generate protests, I say: I will not tire of calling them to a good dialogue, to tell them that we are working for the country” , she said. said.
Clashes with police in the southern city of Arequipa on Thursday left one person dead and about 10 injured, according to the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office, as protesters reportedly attempted to raid the airport. Several airports have been closed and large parts of the country have been paralyzed by more than 120 roadblocks.
Outrage over the rising death toll has fueled growing protests, which began in early December in support of ousted former president Pedro Castillo but have shifted overwhelmingly to demand Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of the Congress and new elections. Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president, replacing him after he attempted to close Congress and rule by decree on December 7.
Earlier on Thursday, thousands marched around Lima’s San Martín Square, many carrying banners of their place of origin. Farmers security organizations known as rondos wore traditional whips and native women wore traditional colorful skirts. Chants of “Dina, murderer, the people reject you” were heard between banners showing Peru’s first female president bathed in blood.
“We want justice, we don’t want our dead to be forgotten,” Zulema Chacón told The Guardian. “We want that usurper out, she doesn’t represent us.”
“They are the thieves and they lie and lie to us,” said Delia Zevallos, 52, a shopkeeper, referring to lawmakers in Congress, Peru’s most despised political body. “People have woken up, we are not children anymore, we can read and write… and no one can tell us what to do.”
Boluarte, who last week said he would not step down, met with a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier on Thursday. Last week, the UN agency said it was “deeply concerned about the increasing violence” in Peru.
Both the US and UK ambassadors to Peru welcomed the meeting and issued statements on Thursday calling for calm and urging the government to engage in dialogue.
In a statement in Spanish on TwitterUS Ambassador Lisa Kenna said it is “fundamental that law enforcement respect human rights and protect civilians.”
In a similar one pronunciationcalled on her British counterpart, Gavin Cook, for “immediate and impartial investigations, accountability and justice for the victims of the reports of human rights abuses”.