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Peru protests: Roads and airport blocked in anger at new president

Anti-government protesters blocked roads and stormed the international airport in Peru’s second city Arequipa as deadly unrest intensified on Monday.

Supporters of leftist former President Pedro Castillo took to the streets in anger at his impeachment and arrest.

Dina Boluarte, his successor and former deputy, proposed bringing general elections forward by two years to April 2024 in response to the protests.

But Mr Castillo called Ms Boluarte’s plans a “dirty game”.

At least seven people have now died in clashes with the security forces since protests erupted over the impeachment of Mr Castillo last Wednesday.

He was accused of corruption and detained for attempting to dissolve the opposition-controlled Congress, just hours before it was due to vote on his impeachment.

In a handwritten letter that he tweeted on Monday, he called Ms Boluarte a “usurper”, and said he had been “kidnapped” and humiliated.

Riot police officers operate during a protest in Lima
Image caption,There were running battles in the streets of the capital

Supporters of Mr Castillo argue that Ms Boluarte was not elected by the people. They are demanding that Peru hold new elections, with some also calling for Congress to be shut down and Mr Castillo released.

Protesters blocked roads and set fire to vehicles on Monday, and an estimated 2,000 stormed the airport in the southern city of Arequipa, blocking the runway and forcing flights to be suspended for several hours. Police finally dispersed them with tear gas.

In a televised address to the nation earlier in the day, Ms Boluarte – the first woman to lead Peru – said she would submit a bill to Congress to hold elections in April 2024, instead of April 2026.

Ms Boluarte said she would also propose constitutional reforms to achieve “a more efficient, transparent and participatory system of government”, but did not go into detail about those reforms.

The move represents an about-turn. Ms Boluarte, who was sworn in as president on Wednesday, said on taking office that she would serve out the remainder of Mr Castillo’s five-year term in office in full.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest on the Pan-American highway in the Northern Cone of Arequipa, Peru
Image caption,The city of Arequipa saw serious clashes on Monday

Last week a court ordered that Mr Castillo be held in preliminary detention for seven days while an investigation is carried out into whether he should be charged with rebellion.

How Ms Boluarte deals with the protests is seen as a key test for her presidency and whether she will be able to hold on to power until April 2024.

Peru’s politics have suffered from instability for years, with the legislature and executive almost constantly at loggerheads.

Ms Boluarte is the sixth president to hold power in as many years.

Source : BBC