Peru imposed a three-day curfew on Tuesday in the Puno region bordering Bolivia, where a policeman was burned to death by a mob after 17 civilians were killed in protests the previous day, the most violent after the ouster of former leftist President Pedro Castillo.
The Puno region mourned until Thursday for the large number of deaths on the eve, raising to 39 the civilians killed after riots that began in December in several localities of the country, mainly in the south.
The Interior Ministry confirmed the first policeman killed during the protests, after unknown assailants in Puno attacked a security forces vehicle in the early hours of Tuesday. The unit was set on fire. Another policeman was injured.
Prime Minister Alberto Otárola said in a speech to Congress that the government is not opposed to the protests, but that the state has an obligation to safeguard public order after the actions of “violentists” financed with “dark” money from illegal mining and drug trafficking.
“A few are not going to put the vast national majority against the wall,” the minister said. “Rest assured that we will apply the full force of the law to prevent this. This government will not give in to the blackmail of violence,” he added.
The head of the government cabinet reported that the Council of Ministers approved a supreme decree that declares mandatory social immobilization in Puno “for a period of three days, from 20.00 hours (local) to 04.00 hours.”
After almost eight hours of debate in Congress, Otárola achieved a vote of confidence in his investiture, a political endorsement of the legislators for the new president Dina Boluarte in the midst of the deep political crisis. If she did not succeed, the president had to reorganize her government team.
In the conservative-dominated Congress, 73 voted in favor of confidence, 43 against and six abstained, as part of a constitutional and traditional requirement to lead a new cabinet of ministers.
POLICEMAN BURNED TO DEATH
In the worst day of protests over the number of victims, the Ombudsman’s Office and the Government also reported 68 civilians and 75 police officers injured yesterday in Puno, many of them by bullets or pellets, according to health authorities.
The demonstrators demand the resignation of President Boluarte, the closure of Congress, a new Constitution and the release of Castillo, who is serving an 18-month preventive detention accused of “rebellion”, a charge that the former president denies.
Market firm BTG Pactual said on Tuesday that the recent unrest in Peru will have a negative impact on the country’s services and tourism sectors, and to some extent, on the mining activity of the second-largest producer of copper of the world.
“At the moment, the main risk is the disruption of the road, which affects the entry and exit of consumables and, to some extent, minerals, depending on the duration of the interruptions,” the firm said in a statement.
Raul Alfaro, commander general of Peru’s police, told reporters that the police vehicle in which the two officers were traveling was “ambushed” by a large group of people. After being reduced, both were beaten by the mob, he said.
“They took away his firearms, they have harassed them,” the officer said. “One of them was able to escape, the other could not do it and the mob ended his life, they have burned him alive,” Alfaro said at Lima’s military airport, where the wounded policeman arrived with multiple blows to the head in the Puno attack.
“There are many people who are inciting this kind of indiscriminate violence without rational justification,” he added.
Protests in Puno continued into Monday night, with some businesses looted, according to local authorities.
Demonstrators also set fire to the home of legislator Jorge Flores, representing Puno for the right-wing Popular Action party. The congressman denounced on the social network Facebook (NASDAQ:GOAL) that he and his family have been threatened.
Peru’s Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday it has opened a preliminary investigation against President Boluarte for alleged crimes of “genocide, aggravated homicide and serious injury” committed during protests in December and January.
The preliminary investigations by Attorney General Patricia Benavides also include Prime Minister Otárola, the interior and defense ministers, and two other officials who were recently in the cabinet.
Social protests were reactivated last week after a pause for the end of the year holidays, and were concentrated in the region of Puno with blockades of roads and commerce to the neighboring country. Since the resumption of demonstrations, serious clashes with police had been reported after protesters tried to take over the city’s airport.
Protest leaders in the south said they are prepared for an “indefinite” struggle against the government, a situation that threatens more instability in the nation.
The United Nations in Peru said in a statement Tuesday it regretted the deaths and urged the Andean country’s authorities and security forces to respect human rights in the face of the demonstrations.
“From UN Peru we reiterate our commitment and willingness to support the country in mediation and generation of dialogue processes,” the organization said.
Although there were no further disturbances, the Juliaca airport remained closed on Tuesday. And in the Andean region of Ayacucho, the operation of its airport was also suspended for security measures, the Ministry of Transportation said.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced that it will visit Peru from Wednesday to Friday of this week, visiting Lima and other cities to assess the situation in the South American country.