LatinNews Daily - 08 March 2023

PERU: Protest violence resurges

On 7 March the head of the joint command of Peru’s armed forces, Manuel Gómez de la Torre, blamed anti-government protesters for the deaths of six soldiers.


The anti-government protests which have raged since the impeachment and arrest of former president Pedro Castillo (2021-2022) in December had appeared to be waning, with roadblocks largely contained to the southern region of Puno and reduced reports of clashes between demonstrators and the authorities. However, protests are once again turning violent in Puno, and there are renewed fears of a fresh wave of disruption targeting Peru’s all-important mining sector. Whilst President Dina Boluarte has backed holding early general elections in order to end the crisis, congress remains deeply opposed to changing the date of elections, which are currently scheduled for April 2024. New bills for early elections are likely to be debated in the coming weeks, but there is no sign that congress’s opposition to an early vote is softening.

  • De la Torre blamed protesters for the death of six soldiers who drowned in a river in Puno region on 5 March. The military commander said that the soldiers were part of a patrol travelling from the town of Juli to Puno city to reinforce a military base when they were stopped and chased into a river by a crowd of protesters. He said that protesters then threw stones at the soldiers while they attempted to cross the river, causing several to lose their footing and be swept away. Other soldiers pulled alive from the water were reportedly then beaten by the mob.
  • Also on 5 March, a crowd of protesters torched a police station in Juli. According to local media, 18 people were injured in clashes as the authorities fought to defend the police station.
  • Peru’s human rights ombudsman has tallied 66 deaths caused by the unrest. In its latest update, released on 7 March, it said that 48 civilians had been killed in clashes with the authorities, 11 civilians had died in traffic accidents at roadblocks, and seven members of the security forces had been killed (one police officer and six soldiers).
  • President Boluarte yesterday testified to the attorney general’s office as part of its preliminary investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the crackdown on protesters. Boluarte and other current and former ministers in her government are under investigation for alleged genocide, homicide, and grievous bodily harm. According to local media, Boluarte’s meeting with prosecutors yesterday lasted around an hour.
  • An early general election remains the clearest route out of the current crisis, but efforts to bring elections forward have been repeatedly obstructed by congress. The president of Peru’s constitutional commission, Hernando Guerra García, of the right-wing Fuerza Popular (FP), said yesterday that the commission is evaluating several proposals by deputies for early elections. He promised “more efforts to reach a consensus” and said that “the topic is open and we will continue to look at it for the duration of this legislative period,” which is due to run until 15 June.
  • Prosecutors are currently attempting to get Castillo’s preventive detention extended from 18 months to 36 months, in a move which could further inflame protests by Castillo supporters.

Looking Ahead: Community leaders in the villages of Chumbivilcas and Espinar (Cusco region) announced on 4 March that they are planning to resume road blockades on the ‘corredor minero’ – an access road to a number of key mines including the Las Bambas and Antapaccay copper mines. Both mines were forced into shutdowns by protesters in late January.

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