February 1, 2023

The number of deaths rises to 54 and the state of emergency in Peru is extended, in the midst of the “taking of Lima”

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(CNN Spanish) — Protesters and police clashed in the streets of Lima this Thursday, in the midst of the anti-government protests that Peru is experiencing. At least three people died during the nationwide demonstrations, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, which updated the total death toll to 54.

Thousands of people marched through the center of the capital in protests that were called under the slogan of the “taking of Lima.” Some groups of protesters encountered a large police presence at points in the city. Agents lined up, wearing riot shields, to block access to the main squares where government buildings are located.

In fact, some 11,800 policemen guarded the city this Thursday, according to what General Víctor Sanabria, chief of the National Police of the Lima region, said at the beginning of the day.

The state channel TV Peru showed a group of protesters breaking through a security cordon and advancing towards Abancay avenue, near the Congress. In the video, protesters can be seen throwing objects and pushing security agents.

Police forces were also seen firing tear gas at some protesters in the city center.

By this Thursday afternoon, some groups had reached Plaza San Martín and Plaza Dos de Mayo, despite the strong police presence.

As night fell, a fire broke out in a building in the center of Lima, near the area where protests have been taking place throughout the day. According to TV Peru, members of the fire department are already in the sector. It is unknown if the fire is related to the anti-government demonstrations. At the moment, there are no reports of people affected by the fire.

Roadblocks were also reported in the Junín and Ica regions.

deaths rise

For its part, the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office increased the death toll related to the protests in the country to 54 this Thursday, after reporting on its Twitter account one more death during the clashes in Arequipa. The entity did not specify the circumstances behind this death and urged prosecutors to open an investigation into the accident.

Ten people were also injured in Arequipa, the Ombudsman’s Office said.

At least 54 people, including one police officer, have been killed since nationwide protests began last month following the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo.

The police protected the monuments in the capital to avoid damage during the demonstrations this Thursday, called under the slogan of the “taking of Lima.” (CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Government says that “it frustrated an attempt to take over” the Arequipa airport

The Ministry of the Interior of Peru reported that the National Police “frustrated an attempt to take over” the facilities of the Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón airport in Arequipa. “The mob that attacked the troops stationed at the air terminal was repelled by applying institutional protocols,” the entity reported on its Twitter account.

Live footage showed police advancing on protesters in Arequipa as several people tried to storm the airport. Smoke was seen billowing from the fields surrounding the airport as several people tried to tear down the fences.

Protesters chanted “murderers” and threw stones as police advanced into the crowd.

Earlier this Thursday, the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Peru announced that, as a preventive measure, the operations of the Arequipa airport would be temporarily suspended. The entity added that this measure is taken “to safeguard the integrity of citizens and the safety of aeronautical operations.”

Police deployed in Plaza San Martin, in the center of Lima, where thousands of protesters are expected on Thursday, January 19, 2023. Almost 12,000 officers were deployed in the country's capital waiting for the protests (Credit: CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Police deployed in Plaza San Martin, in the center of Lima, where thousands of protesters are expected on Thursday, January 19, 2023. Almost 12,000 officers were deployed in the country’s capital waiting for the protests (Credit: CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP via Getty Images)

The hours before the demonstrations on Thursday

Lima woke up this Thursday with a strong police and military presence protecting Parliament, the Palace of Justice (symbol of the Judiciary in Peru), the Prosecutor’s Office, and selected television stations, according to local media.

Protesters, in particular students, were seen arriving on buses from different regions since Wednesday and staying on the grounds of two universities in the capital.

During the day of this Wednesday, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, a total of 105 roads were blocked and protests were registered in 45 provinces of the country. The Ombudsman called for a peaceful protest and for the Police not to use disproportionate force, if necessary.

unprecedented violence

The recent protests throughout Peru—in which clashes between protesters and law enforcement have been reported—followed the ouster of Pedro Castillo as president on December 7.

A state of emergency was imposed that month, airports and highways were the scene of some clashes, and hundreds of foreign tourists were stranded in the country amid the chaos.

On those who died during the protests, human rights groups assure that the authorities used excessive force against the protests, which included firearms. For its part, the Army affirms that the demonstrators have used explosives and improvised weapons, reports Reuters.

During this weekend, the Government of Peru extended for 30 days the state of emergency in the capital, Lima, and in the regions of Cusco, Puno and the constitutional province of Callao. The state of emergency suspends various constitutional rights, such as freedom of movement and assembly.

The office of Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, now seems as under siege as that of her predecessor. In January, Peru’s Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Boluarte’s handling of the riots, and several of her ministers have resigned.

Protesters prepare their flags for the great mobilization this Thursday, called the “taking of Lima” (Credit: CRIS BOURONCLE / AFP via Getty Images)

Why are the protesters so angry?

Castillo’s removal has accelerated political tensions in the country.

The demonstrators demand new elections, the resignation of Boluarte, a change in the Constitution and the release of Castillo, who is in preventive detention.

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader who had never held elected office before becoming president, hailed from rural Peru and presented himself as a man of the people. Many of his supporters come from poorer regions, hoping that Castillo would offer better prospects to the country’s rural and indigenous population.

Although protests have taken place across the country, the greatest violence has occurred in the rural and indigenous south, which has long been at odds with elites. white coastal and mestizas.

The Peruvian legislature is also viewed with skepticism by public opinion. The president and congressmen cannot serve consecutive terms under Peruvian law, and critics have pointed to their lack of political experience.

With information from Guillermo Galdos, Abel Alvarado, Mitchell McCluskey, Tara John, and Stefano Pozzebon.





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