Peru’s presidential palace and the Congress building in Lima have been protected by bars and riot police since Monday two days before a march that once again demands the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and legislators, in what is expected to be the resumption of the opposition protests that have shaken the country since late last year and left 67 dead and 1,900 injured.
Lima’s main square, located in front of the presidential palace, was also isolated and barricaded amid the hassle of merchants, foreign tourists, and ordinary citizens who had to circle it to reach banks, chocolate shops, cafes, and other historical sites.
A protest with up to 4,000 demonstrators is planned for Wednesdayaccording to police calculations, to show the discontent of the citizens with the government and to demand justice for the civilians murdered in the mobilizations from December to February, when President Boluarte replaced Pedro Castillo after his dismissal by Congress, on the 7th of December.
With an unpopularity that exceeds 80% in the case of the president and 90% for the legislators, according to a study of citizen opinion at the national level by the CPI firm published on Monday, Boluarte called for the unity of Peruvians before the call for a dozen social organizations, including unions and student federations.
“We need to love each other and find each other… and we don’t need those messages that separate us,” he pronounced on Monday in a closed-door ceremony inside a convention center. He quoted passages from the bible and said “love one another”.
But his Minister of the Interior, Vicente Romero, was direct and indicated on the public television network that they had “identified all the leaders” of the protest and will hold them responsible if “they set fire to the prairie again, to burn public and private entities.” .
In addition, the police announced that on Wednesday, the day of the protest, will send 8,000 agents to the streets of the cital to control public order.
At the northern and southern entrances of Lima, agents have been checking the identity documents of bus passengers arriving from the Andes since last week, after groups of protesters from various regions indicated that they were traveling to the cital to protest.
The government too extended for 30 days the suspension of constitutional rights in key roads of Peru, including the right to free assembly, to avoid possible road blockades.
“The president has not fulfilled a broad demand throughout 2023 to call general elections after Castillo left power,” he explained to Associated Press Omar Coronel, professor of Social Sciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
The teacher added that the violent repression against those who protested has added a second layer of protesters against the violation of human rights exercised. “That has grown a very large opposition,” he said.
The protests against Boluarte began on December 7 of last year when she assumed power after the dismissal of Pedro Castillo, who tried to dissolve Parliament to avoid a vote against him and ended up accused and in pretrial detention for the alleged crime of rebellion.
Protests, repression and deaths
More than two months of demonstrations, mainly in the Andes but also in the cital, left 49 civilians dead in clashes with security forces and 11 more in traffic accidents or roadblocks related to the protest, as well as seven deaths in uniforms.
The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as well as various non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed concern about the excessive use of force by security forces. The autopsies determined that 30 of the nearly fifty civilian victims died from firearm projectile.
The Boluarte government accused drug trafficking, illegal mining and contraband at the beginning of the year of being the financiers of the anti-government protests, but to date it has not shown any evidence.
The president is being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office, together with several members of her cabinet, for the deaths in the demonstrations.
Faced with citizen requests for her to resign, the president reiterated in June that she will not resign and govern until 2026. Although several initiatives to advance the electoral process, including those of the ruling party, were rejected by Congress.
The new call to demonstrate, the duration of which was not announced by the organizers of the protest, seeks press for a way out of the current authorities.
Two Spanish tourists, Gumer Gonzalez and Raquel Martinez, were looking at Lima’s main square from behind bars and told the AP they were surprised to find it barred. “There are few places in the world where I have seen very important squares that are fenced off,” said Gonzalez.
In an old 16th-century house on a corner across from the government palace, Tomy Rios, manager of a museum-store dedicated to exploring and displaying various varieties of chocolates, said with his almost empty shop that before, up to 4,000 tourists came a day.
Now, they only number 500, he said. “Basically it is a shame that these authorities believe that the public highway belongs to them and they put up bars,” he said.