Anger in rural areas fuel protests against Peru government

Andahuilas, Peru (AP) — Peruvians’ anger against their government is nowhere more visible than in Andahuilas, a remote rural community in the Andes where the poor have struggled for years and where voter support helped elect ousted President Pedro Castillo. A peasant like them

Such is their anger that their protests continued on Monday despite the deaths of four people, including two young demonstrators over the weekend, including Beckham Romario Quispe Garfias, 17.

As thousands poured into the streets, Raquel Quispe remembered her brother as a talented athlete who was tired of feeling invisible in the eyes of politicians. He was named after English soccer great David Beckham and Brazilian soccer phenom-turned-politician Romario.

Clouds overhead, he stood outside the hospital where his body was kept, with anger in his voice, sometimes tears betraying what had led him and others to protest after Castillo’s ouster last week: a rejectionist democracy. .

“For them, those in Congress are the only valid opinion of Peruvians who have money, about rich people,” said Quispe, an early childhood education teacher.

“They do whatever they want. For them… the vote of the provinces is not valid, it is useless. But the vote of the people of Lima is considered. This is an injustice for all of Peru.”

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About 3,000 people took to the streets on Monday to protest and pay their respects in front of the white coffins of the young men who died over the weekend. Throughout the community, rocks were scattered on roads still marked by the fire. An airstrip used by the armed forces was blocked, and black smoke still lingered over a nearby building.

Demonstrators across rural communities, including Andahuilas, continued to call on President Dina Bolvarete to resign and call a general election to replace her and all members of Congress. They also want authorities to release Castillo, who was arrested Wednesday when he was ousted by lawmakers after trying to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.

While protesters have also gathered in the capital Lima, demonstrations have been particularly heated in rural areas, strongholds of Castillo, a former school teacher and political newcomer from an impoverished Andean mountain region.

Protesters went a step further on Monday by blocking access to an international airport in southern Peru for several hours and occupying its runway. A protest in Arequipa, where the airport is located, left one protester dead, Defense Secretary Alberto Otarola told lawmakers in a congressional session focused on domestic unrest. Another protester was killed in a state that also includes Andahuilas, lawmakers said.

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The escalation came even after Bolvarete had yielded to the protesters’ demands hours earlier, announcing in a nationally televised address that he would send a proposal to Congress to move the elections to April 2024 – a reversal of an earlier claim. He said that he should remain the president for the rest. 3 1/2 years of his predecessor’s term.

Bulvarte, in his address to the nation, also declared a state of emergency in areas outside Lima, where demonstrations were violent.

Announcing the proposal to hold early elections, Bolvarte told Congress: “My duty as President of the Republic in this difficult time is to interpret…the desires, interests and concerns of the vast majority of the Peruvian people.”

Bolvarte, 60, was sworn in Wednesday to succeed Castillo, hours after he stunned the country by ordering the dissolution of Congress, which in turn removed him for “permanent moral incapacity.” Castillo was arrested for rioting.

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Bulvarte’s cabinet members appeared before Congress on Monday to present a report on the protests. Far-right lawmaker Jorge Montoya called for appropriate measures to end the unrest, telling Castillo’s supporters that “the season is closed.”

“These are not acts of protest, but acts of terrorism that should be severely punished,” Montoya said. “You can’t defend a position that is at last.”

In Andahuilas, about 80 percent of voters who voted in last year’s runoff voted for Castillo. His proposals included rewriting the country’s constitution, which was last drafted and ratified in 1993 under the administration of Alberto Fujimori, a former dignified president whose daughter, Kiko, lost the presidency to Castillo.

Rosario Garfias was among those who protested outside the hospital where her 17-year-old son’s body was kept. Speaking in Quechua, one of Peru’s indigenous languages, she expressed her grief over her son’s death.

My mother complains about her language. I know many don’t understand him, even Congress doesn’t understand it. He says that… it hurts him so much because he was killed, like a slaughter. And my mother, like my family, wants justice for my brother.”

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Garcia Cano reported from Lima.

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