Peru declares state of emergency after protests leave at least eight dead

World

A 30-day state of emergency has been declared in Peru after the country’s president was impeached and a week of protests left at least eight dead.

It gives police the power to search homes without permission and limits certain freedoms, including the right to assembly.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since the ousting of former president Pedro Castillo in an impeachment vote on 7 December.

Castillo, a leftist elected in 2021, was arrested after being accused of illegally trying to dissolve Peru’s congress in the country’s latest political scandal of recent years.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that they were seeking 18 months of pre-trial detention for Mr Castillo, who has been charged with rebellion and conspiracy.

Peru‘s supreme court met to consider the request but have suspended the session until Thursday.

Mr Castillo’s former vice president, Dina Boluarte, has been sworn in but the move has divided other Latin-American leaders and the upheaval has angered many Peruvians.

Members of security forces launched tear gases during a clash with protesters near the airport in Cuzco, as they protest demanding the dissolution of the Congress and to hold democratic elections rather than recognizing Dina Boluarte as Peru's President, after the ouster of Peruvian leader Pedro Castillo, in Cuzco, Peru December 14, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Gambin NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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Security forces launch tear gas during a clash with protesters near Cuzco airport
Police officers use their shields as people protest demanding the dissolution of the Congress and to hold democratic elections rather than recognizing Dina Boluarte as Peru's President, after the ouster of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, in Cuzco, Peru December 14, 2022. REUTERS/Alejandra Orosco NO RESALES. NO A
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Police in Cuzco

Authorities have said eight people, mainly teenagers, have died in clashes with the police – with rights groups claiming at least six were killed by gunfire.

Protesters have blocked motorways, set buildings alight and invaded airports.

“We have agreed to declare a state of emergency throughout the country, due to acts of vandalism and violence,” said defence minister Alberto Otarola.

“This requires a forceful response from the government.”

‘We don’t want to return to that painful history’

President Boluarte has called for “peace” and suggested elections could be held a year from now – four months before her earlier proposal of April 2024.

The vote was originally slated for 2026, when Mr Castillo’s term would have ended.

People take pictures of a fire during a protest demanding the dissolution of the Congress and to hold democratic elections rather than recognizing Dina Boluarte as Peru's President, after the ouster of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, in Cuzco, Peru December 14, 2022. REUTERS/Alejandra Orosco NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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People protest in Cuzco
Pedro Castillo apparently being arrested. Pic: National Police of Peru
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Pedro Castillo being arrested last week. Pic: National Police of Peru

“The only thing I can tell you sisters and brothers (is) to keep calm,” Ms Boluarte said.

“We have already lived through this experience in the 80s and 90s, and I believe that we do not want to return to that painful history.”

Her remarks recalled the years when the communist party’s insurgency presided over numerous car bombings and assassinations.

The group was blamed for more than half of the nearly 70,000 estimated deaths and disappearances caused by various rebel groups and a brutal government counterinsurgency response.

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