Peru’s congress on Friday rejected a constitutional reform to allow early general elections at the end of 2023, an initiative proposed by President Dina Boluarte, amid violent protests and following the resignation of two ministers in the government’s cabinet.
The legislature did not reach the necessary votes for the reform, which required a minimum of 66 votes and give rise to a referendum that would prove support for the elections, or at least 87 votes to be able to approve it with that same amount in favor in a second vote of the next legislature.
The proposal sought to hold elections in December next year, shortening Boluarte’s mandate planned until mid-2026, one of the main demands of the protests that have already left 17 dead in the clashes.
Boluarte took office after the impeachment and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, who tried to dissolve Congress and illegally reorganize the judiciary.
Some lawmakers said the proposal to advance elections was rejected because leftist members, who support Castillo, wanted to include in the initiative that in addition to the elections the creation of a constituent assembly be considered.
“Congress has turned its back on the people,” Susel Paredes, a leftist lawmaker who does not support the former president and voted in favor of reform, told reporters.
The protests demand, in addition to the holding of elections, the closure of Congress, a constituent assembly, the release of former President Castillo and the resignation of Boluarte.
The Minister of Education and the Minister of Culture announced their resignation on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), the first cabinet resignations, as roadblocks and the closure of some airports in Peru’s Andean regions remained in place on Friday.
“The death of fellow nationals has no justification whatsoever. State violence cannot be disproportionate and generates death,” said the now former Minister of Education, Patricia Correa, when publishing her resignation on social networks.
The head of the Ombudsman’s Office, Eliana Revollar, said the highest number of casualties came Thursday with the death of eight people after clashes between police and the army with protesters in the Andean region of Ayacucho, amid an attempt to seize the city’s airport.
“We have a painful accounting that could reach two dozen people (killed)” during the protests, Revollar said in an interview with local radio RPP.
The institution said on Friday afternoon that there are 17 deaths directly linked to the clashes, and that there have been another five deaths from traffic accidents and events linked to the blockades, in addition to 539 people injured, including civilians and members of the police.
The Ombudsman’s Office said it filed “a criminal complaint” with the Ayacucho prosecutor’s office to determine responsibility for the serious violations against the people.
The Joint Command of the Armed Forces said in a statement that in Thursday’s riots in Ayacucho, an army patrol had been “attacked by a mob with blunt objects, explosives and homemade firearms.”
The patrol then applied “legally established” force without specifying whether the soldiers used firearms.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE HEADQUARTERS ARE BURNED
The protests have not ceased despite the fact that the government has decreed a national “state of emergency” and handed over control of public order to the Armed Forces. A nighttime curfew in 15 provinces, in the regions of greatest turmoil, is another effort to defuse conflicts.
Local television and social media footage showed clashes between police and protesters amid gunfire blasts in the Junín region, where authorities confirmed one dead.
Transport authorities said Friday that blockades have been cleared in the north of the country, but several stretches of the main coastal highway in the south of the country remained closed, with dozens of cargo vehicles stranded.
The protests have led to the closure of tourist sites in Peru, such as the Inca citadel of Macchu Picchu, and there have been reports of hundreds of stranded visitors.
Sonia Vigil, a Norwegian tourist, said Thursday that she arrived in Peru four days ago and that “everything went crazy.” “There is garbage in the streets and people protesting and horns everywhere. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, they don’t really tell us much and everything is in Spanish and it’s hard for me to understand it,” she said.
Peru’s justice system on Thursday ordered an 18-month pretrial detention for former President Castillo while he is investigated for “rebellion and conspiracy” after trying to dissolve Congress and illegally reorganize the judiciary.
Castillo, a primary school teacher who won the election by a narrow margin with the support of the country’s poorest regions, has denied the allegations.
The former president will be relocated inside the police base, where he is detained, to a small prison specially built years ago for former President Alberto Fujimori, convicted of human rights abuses and corruption.