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Peru’s president offers to bring forward elections amid deadly protests

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, gave in to protesters’ demands Monday morning, announcing in a nationally televised speech that she will send Congress a proposal to speed up the election.

Boluarte’s decision came after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Peru for another day on Sunday to demand that she step down and hold elections to replace her and Congress. The protests have turned deadly, with at least two deaths reported in a remote Andes community, officials say.

Boluarte said she would propose the general election lineup for April 2024. This marks a reversal as she previously said she should be allowed to hold the post for the remaining 3½ years of her predecessor’s term.

“My duty as president of the republic in the current difficult period is to interpret, read and collect the aspirations, interests and concerns, if not of all, of the vast majority of Peruvians,” Boluarte said. “Thus, interpreting in the broadest way the will of the citizens…I have decided to take the initiative to reach an agreement with the republican congress to advance the general elections.”

Many of those protesting in the current political crisis are demanding the release of Pedro Castillo, the center-left president ousted by lawmakers on Wednesday after seeking to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.

The protests rocking Peru have particularly heated up in rural areas, strongholds of Castillo, a former schoolteacher and political newcomer from a poor Andean district in the mountains. Protesters set fire to a police station, vandalized a small airport used by the armed forces and marched through the streets.

A 15-year-old boy has died from an injury sustained during a protest in the remote Andes community of Andahuaylas, MK Maria Taipe Coronado said as she made an impassioned plea from the Legislative Palace for Boluarte resign.

“The death of this compatriot is the responsibility of Ms. Dina for not presenting her resignation,” accused Taipe, who is affiliated with the party that helped Castillo and Boluarte in their election last year as president and vice-president. -president respectively before both were expelled. of this party. “Since when is protesting a crime?

Taipe accused authorities of using heavy-handed crackdown tactics to quell the protests. But it remains unclear how the boy was fatally injured, and state media reported a second death in the same community without giving details.

Anthony Gutiérrez, director of a local hospital, told a radio station that the second protester to die was an 18-year-old. At least 26 people were also reportedly injured.

Hundreds of people also demonstrated in the capital Lima, where riot police used tear gas to repel protesters.

Boluarte, in his address to the nation, declared a state of emergency in areas outside Lima where protests have been particularly violent.

Boluarte, 60, was quickly sworn in midweek to replace Castillo, hours after he stunned the country by ordering the dissolution of Congress, which in turn dismissed him for “permanent moral incapacity”. Castillo was arrested for rebellion.

Castillo’s failed ruling against the opposition-led Congress came hours before lawmakers launched a third impeachment attempt against him.

Protests scattered across the country continued for days. Protesters also set up roadblocks, leaving people stranded for hours.

On Saturday in Andahuaylas, 16 people were treated for concussions in a hospital, and one of those people was reported in serious condition.

Boluarte called for a time of national unity to heal from the latest upheavals. But many of those protesting for Castillo have called her a “traitor”.

“The life of no Peruvian deserves to be sacrificed for political interests,” Boluarte tweeted hours before his address to the nation. “I express my condolences for the death of a citizen of Andahuaylas. I reiterate my call for dialogue and an end to violence.

Meanwhile, in Lima, hundreds of people gathered again on Sunday outside the Legislative Palace. Dozens of police in riot gear fired tear gas at those gathered, while just inside the building lawmakers began a session. Police also chased and beat protesters as they fled the scene amid clouds of gas.

Peru has had six presidents in the past six years, including three in a single week in 2020 when Congress relaxed its impeachment powers.

The struggle for power in the country has continued as the Andes region and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in half a century. The country of more than 33 million people is also experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections – having recorded around 4.3 million infections and 217,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Huffington Gt

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