Two killed in Peru as protests over Castillo’s arrest spread

Two teenagers killed in Andahuaylas as police clashed with protesters who tried to storm the southern city’s airport, authorities say.

At least two people have been killed in Peru after police clashed with protesters calling for new elections and the release of detained former President Pedro Castillo.

The deaths on Sunday came as protests against Castillo’s impeachment and arrest expanded across Peru, most notably in northern and Andean towns.

Castillo, a former school teacher and union leader, was removed from his post by legislators on Wednesday after he sought to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote. The former president was arrested shortly afterwards, with prosecutors charging him with rebellion and conspiracy.

Dina Boluarte, a former prosecutor who had served as Castillo’s vice president, was quickly sworn in to replace him.

Protesters, many of them supporters of the detained former leader, have for days demanded that Peru hold elections rather than allow Boluarte to stay in power until Castillo’s term ends in 2026.

Some protesters have also called for Congress to be shut down.

On Sunday, protests were reported in cities across Peru’s interior, including Cajamarca, Arequipa, Huancayo, Cusco and Puno.

In Andahuaylas in the Apurimac region, clashes broke out as demonstrators attempted to storm the southern city’s airport, authorities said. Protesters fired slingshots and hurled stones while police responded with tear gas, images from the scene broadcast by local TV showed.

A demonstrator holds up a Bible in front of police officers as people demonstrate demanding presidential elections and the closure of Congress in Lima, Peru.
A demonstrator holds up a Bible in front of police officers during demonstrations demanding new presidential elections after the removal of Castillo [Gerardo Marin/ Reuters]

Eliana Revollar, the head of Peru’s ombudsman’s office, told a radio station that a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old died during the clashes “possibly as a result of gunshot wounds”.

Baltazar Lantaron, governor of the Apurimac region, told local television station Canal N that “four injuries are reported, treated at the health centre, three of them [with wounds] to the scalp, with multiple injuries”.

Hundreds of people also held protests at the legislative palace in the Peruvian capital, Lima, where riot police used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Inside the palace, the Congress had convened in an emergency session to discuss the crisis but had to be suspended after physical altercations broke out. In images posted on social media, a man could be seen punching another man from behind and members shoving each other in the centre of the chamber.

Prime Minister Pedro Angulo said Boluarte’s newly appointed Cabinet would meet on Sunday night to evaluate the civil unrest and determine how to respond.

Meanwhile, rural unions and organisations representing Indigenous peoples called for an “indefinite strike” beginning on Tuesday in support of Castillo, himself the son of a peasant family. The statement from the Agrarian and Rural Front of Peru demanded Castillo’s immediate release as well as the suspension of Congress, early elections and a new constitution.

The demands for new elections come as recent polls show nearly nine in 10 Peruvians disapprove of the nation’s legislature.

Political analyst Giovanna Penaflor told the AFP news agency that Boluarte, who on Friday did not rule out calling early elections, needs to make clear whether she intends to lead a transitional government or to remain in power until 2026.

“She should be clear that her role is to facilitate new general elections,” Penaflor added, saying that doing so would provide needed stability and “allow this cabinet to not be like those in the past”.

Peru is now on its sixth president since 2016.

The power struggle in the country has continued as the Andes region and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in a half-century.

The country of more than 33 million people is also experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, having recorded about 4.3 million cases and 217,000 deaths since the pandemic began.


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