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Major demonstrations in Peru

The Peruvian President, Dina Boluarte, on Thursday called for dialogue to end the demonstrations that are shaking several regions of this country, where protesters are demanding her resignation. “We extend our hand and our heart” to the demonstrators, Boluarte said during a press conference in Lima, inviting disgruntled citizens to talk to the government to find a way out of the crisis. Demonstrations resumed on Wednesday in 26 provinces of Peru, after a truce during the end of the year holidays. The protesters demand the resignation of Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of the parliament and the immediate organization of new elections, already brought forward from 2026 to April 2024. There have been clashes between law enforcement and protesters, and numerous roads are blocked in several cities. The demonstrations are especially concentrated in the south of the country, explained Peruvian Interior Minister Victor Rojas. “We remain tolerant and continue to respect everyone’s right to demonstrate,” he added. Dina Boluarte, former vice president, replaced Pedro Castillo on December 7, deposed and accused of rebellion after he tried to dissolve the parliament. More than 600 people have been injured and 22 have been killed since the beginning of the demonstrations, extremely violent in the center and south of the country, where Castillo has many supporters.

Inflation in Peru has reached its highest level in a quarter of a century, hammering people already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic since early 2020. “The cost of a family’s basic daily needs has brutally gone up,” Gonzales told Reuters, surrounded by hundreds of angry residents in the western village of Villacuri and where people from all parts of Peru come to work at the large fruit plantations nearby. Last week Gonzales led people from his village, which is about 240 km (150 miles) south of the capital Lima in the Ica region, to block the country’s most important highway, demanding the government act to lower prices, especially for essentials such as vegetable oil, chicken, rice and cooking gas “We can’t afford rent or to buy things for our kids,” said Maribel Condori, a mother of three in Villacuri. Peruvians in poor rural towns around the country have taken to the streets, sometimes violently, to demand lower prices, putting socialist President Pedro Castillo’s already-wobbly administration on edge. The former teacher survived a second impeachment attempt on March 28 following allegations of graft, which he denies. At least six people have died in clashes with police, including one in Ica, authorities have said. Officials have so far been unable to reopen many of the blocked roads, although the Pan-American Highway, which traverses the length of Peru along the Pacific Ocean, is currently open following a 48-hour truce that ends on Saturday. Peru has also deployed its military in a bid to regain control of its highways. Earlier this week, Castillo imposed a curfew in Lima to try to stifle the protests, but that backfired as thousands took to the streets in defiance. Some looted shops and government buildings. “We are not against the President,” said Gonzales. “We are against Congress, which is very concerned about impeachments but never works for the people.” “We want to change the constitution, specifically to change the part that says the government cannot control the prices set by private companies,” said Gonzales, who plans to continue the blockade after the truce unless the government commits to lowering prices. Peru, while economically stable, has been beset by political crises and protests this year, leading to Castillo’s support dwindling and raising doubts over whether he will see out his full mandate until 2026.

By Roberto Caseli

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