Peru President Backs Investigation into 22 Protest Deaths

Peru's President Dina Boluarte, who was called on by Congress to take the office of president after the legislature approved the removal of President Pedro Castillo in an impeachment trial, attends her swearing-in ceremony in Lima, Peru December 7, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda
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LIMA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Peruvian President Dina Boluarte said Thursday she will provide all necessary resources to prosecutors so they can investigate the more than two dozen deaths during protests that have rocked Peru following the ouster of her predecessor.

An estimated 22 people have been killed in clashes during the protests and another six have died in traffic accidents related to street blockades, according to government data.

“We’re going to give all the resources possible to the prosecutor’s office to investigate the deaths,” Boluarte said at a news conference on Thursday.

Boluarte assumed the presidency earlier this month after leftist President Pedro Castillo was ousted in an impeachment vote hours after attempting to illegally dissolve Congress. She was previously Castillo’s vice president.

Castillo was arrested and remains in pretrial detention while under investigation on rebellion and conspiracy charges. His ouster led to days of sometimes violent protests in Peru.

In response, Boluarte’s government implemented a state of emergency that granted security forces special powers and limited freedoms such as the right to assembly.

Human rights groups have accused authorities of using firearms on protesters and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The army says protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.

“The police and army went out on the streets to protect the lives and calm the fears of the 33 million people living in Peru,” Boluarte said Thursday, but added that the deaths would not go unpunished.

“We are not going to allow impunity, they need to be investigated,” Boluarte said.

A Reuters investigation found several cases of people who were shot dead in the city of Ayacucho after the military moved into the region to wrest back control.

Interior Minister Victor Rojas said in the conference alongside Boluarte he had information that the protests could reignite, particularly in the south, on Jan. 4 after pausing during the Christmas holidays.

He said human rights would be protected if more protests were to break out. “No one wants to repeat the deaths that happened in the first round of conflicts,” he said.


Boluarte said some neighboring countries had “wrongly interpreted” what happened to Castillo.

In the days after Castillo’s ouster, the leftist governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Colombia issued a joint statement calling for the protection of Castillo’s human rights and said those who removed Castillo should prioritize “the will of the citizens.”

Another leftist bloc of Latin American countries including Cuba and Venezuela said days later it rejected “the political framework created by right-wing forces against Constitutional President Pedro Castillo.”

Boluarte pushed back on those criticisms. “What did happen was a breakdown of the constitutional order by (Castillo) wanting to carry out a coup d’état,” she said.

Castillo’s family have received asylum in Mexico, while Mexican authorities have offered Castillo protection as well, Mexico has said.

Peru declared Mexico’s ambassador to Lima “persona non grata” and ordered him to leave the country earlier this month, for what it considered Mexico’s meddling in Peru’s internal affairs.

Boluarte said on Thursday that Peru’s foreign ministry was “working hard” to normalize relations for its ambassadors in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia.

“It is important for us, especially for the Pacific Alliance, the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), and the Andean Community, to continue working with all the countries in the region,” Boluarte said.

She maintained that she will remain in office until 2024, when she has proposed to hold new elections, a move that Congress has not yet approved.

Boluarte said she would not step down and that her resignation would “generate anarchy in the country.”

Reporting by Marco Aquino in Lima; Additional reporting by Marion Giraldo in Mexico City; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Rosalba O’Brien
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