LIMA, Peru (AP) —
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Peru’s capital and were met with volleys of tear gas and pellets amid clashes with security forces just hours after President Dina Boluarte called for a “truce” in almost two months of protests.
The antigovernment protest Tuesday was the largest – and most violent — since last Thursday, when large groups of people, many from remote Andean regions, descended on the capital to demand Boluarte’s resignation, immediate elections and the dissolution of Congress.
Before last week, most of the large antigovernment protests that followed the ouster of President Pedro Castillo took place in remote regions of Peru, largely in the country’s south, exposing deep division between residents of the capital and the long-neglected countryside.
The crisis that has sparked Peru’s worst political violence in more than two decades began when Castillo, Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background, tried to short-circuit the third impeachment proceeding of his young administration by ordering Congress dissolved on Dec. 7. Lawmakers impeached him instead, the national police arrested him before he could find sanctuary and Boluarte, who was his vice president, was sworn in.
Since then, 56 people have died amid the unrest involving Castillo’s supporters, 45 of whom died in direct clashes with security forces, according to Peru’s ombudsman. None of the deaths have been in Lima.
On Tuesday, police fired round after round of tear gas as they blocked the passage of protesters, who seemed more organized than before. The smell of tear gas permeated the air and could be felt even a block away as people leaving work suddenly had to cover their faces to try to diminish the sting.
“Murderers,” yelled the protesters, some of whom threw rocks at the police.
Even after most of the protesters had left, police continued firing tear gas to disperse small groups of people in a plaza in front of the country’s Supreme Court.
Boluarte had earlier called for a truce and blamed protesters for the political violence that has engulfed the country, claiming in a news conference that illegal miners, drug traffickers and smugglers formed a “paramilitary force” to seek chaos for political gain. She said numerous road blockades across the country and damage to infrastructure have cost the country more than $1 billion in lost production.
Human rights advocates say they are dismayed by the lack of international outcry from the regional and global community and are calling for condemnation of the state violence unleashed since Castillo’s impeachment.