Thursday, Dec 07, 2023

Peru’s beleaguered president urges congress to bring 2024 elections forward

Peru’s beleaguered president urges congress to bring 2024 elections forward

Dina Boluarte calls for vote to be held in December after weeks of anti-government protests since overthrow of former president
Peru’s beleaguered president, Dina Boluarte, has urged Congress to bring forward elections scheduled for April 2024 to the end of this year as anti-government protests and blockades intensify across the country.

Boluarte, who has refused to step down despite furious nationwide protests calling for her to resign, said on Friday that elections should be brought forward to December in an attempt to ease the seven weeks of unrest that has claimed 57 lives – mostly civilians killed in clashes with the security forces.

Speaking at a military airbase in Lima, Boluarte said she hoped the unconditional proposal would “get us out of this quagmire”. She said the executive branch of government would call elections as soon as Congress set the date. The deeply unpopular chamber approved bringing forward elections by two years to April 2024 in a first vote earlier this month but must make a second vote to finalise the decision.

“Nobody has any interest in clinging to power … and I, Dina Boluarte, have no interest in staying in the presidency,” she said.

Peru has been embroiled in political turmoil and street violence since early December when former president Pedro Castillo was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. Boluarte, his vice-president and former running mate, took office.

But the demonstrations and blockades have spread in size and scale as scores of civilians have been killed in violent clashes with the security forces, overwhelmingly in the southern Andes, a region ignored and marginalised by the Lima establishment which largely supported ousted Castillo who pledged to eradicate poverty and overturn the status quo.

Hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the southern city of Cusco on Thursday, carrying placards that denounced the president as a monster, a murderer and a Judas.

“We are here to protest against this authoritarian government which kills its people,” said one of the marchers, a 40-year-old teacher called Javier Cusimay.

“We feel stronger than ever and we will carry on fighting until the very end. This is a peaceful, bullet-free struggle. The violence is coming from the government. So many of our brothers have died. This government cannot go on,” Cusimay added as the protest moved through the cobblestone streets of the city’s picturesque historic center.

Protests have spread to the capital, Lima, as demonstrators travelled in convoys from the southern Andes to the capital to demand Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of congress and fresh elections.

Students joined the ranks of protesters on Tuesday in massive protests that ended in violent clashes with the police. Several journalists were among those injured by rubber pellets and teargas canisters fired by the police.

A police raid on a university last Saturday sparked further outrage over heavy-handed police tactics and swelled the ranks of the protesters demanding political consequences for Boluarte and her cabinet.

Boluarte, 60, apologised for the way the university raid was carried out on Tuesday but praised the police force’s “immaculate conduct” in the protests in Lima last week. She called for a “national truce” and claimed violent groups, some of them from Bolivia, were sowing “chaos and anarchy” for a political agenda.

The lawyer and former civil servant, who hails from Apurímac in the southern Andes, appealed to the protesters, saying in Quechua that she was one of them.

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