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Home World News Washington Post World News Protesters flock to Peru’s capital demanding the president’s resignation

Protesters flock to Peru’s capital demanding the president’s resignation



LIMA, Peru — People poured into Peru’s coastal capital, many from remote Andean regions, for a protest Thursday against President Dina Boluarte and in support of her predecessor, whose ouster last month sparked deadly unrest and plunged the nation into political chaos.

A tense calm reigned in the streets of Lima ahead of the protest that supporters of former President Pedro Castillo hope will open a new chapter in the weeks-long movement to demand Boluarte’s resignation, dissolution of Congress and immediate elections. Castillo, Peru’s first leader with a rural background in the Andes, was impeached after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.

“We have delinquent ministers, presidents who kill and we live like beasts in the midst of so much wealth that they steal from us every day,” said Samuel Acero, a farmer who heads the regional protest committee for the Andean city of Cusco. “We want Dina Boluarte to leave, she lied to us.”

Anger at Boluarte was the common thread as street vendors sold T-shirts with the words, “Out, Dina Boluarte,” “Dina killer, Peru rejects you,” and a call for “New elections, let them all go.”

“Our God says that you shall not kill your neighbor. Dina Boluarte kills, she makes brothers fight,” said Paulina Consac, carrying a large Bible as she marched through the center of Lima with more than 2,000 protesters from Cusco.

By early afternoon, protesters had turned major roads into major pedestrian zones in downtown Lima.

The protests have so far been held mainly in Peru’s southern Andes, leaving 54 people dead amid the unrest, the vast majority killed in clashes with security forces.

“We are at a breaking point between dictatorship and democracy,” said Pedro Mamani, a student at the National University of San Marcos. Students there live protesters who traveled for the protest popularly referred to as the “takeover of Lima.”

The university was surrounded by police officers, who were also deployed at key points in the historic center of Lima.

Some 11,800 police officers were dispatched, Victor Zanabria, Lima’s police chief, told local media. He downplayed the size of the protests, saying he expected around 2,000 people to take part.

There were protests elsewhere and videos on social media showed a group of protesters attempting to storm the airport in the south of Arequipa, Peru’s second city. They were stopped by the police, but the airport interrupted operations.

The demonstrations that erupted last month and subsequent clashes with security forces were the worst political violence in more than two decades and have exposed the deep divisions between the urban elite largely concentrated in Lima and the poor rural areas.

By bringing the protest to Lima, protesters hope to bring new weight to the movement that began when Boluarte was sworn in on Dec. 7 to replace Castillo.

“If there are tragedies or massacres outside the capital, it doesn’t have the same political relevance on the public agenda as if it had happened in the capital,” said Alonso Cárdenas, a professor of public policy at Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Lima.

“The leaders have understood that and say they can slaughter us in Cusco, in Puno, and nothing happens, we have to take the protest to Lima,” Cárdenas added, citing cities that have seen great violence.

The concentration of protesters in Lima also reflects how the capital has started to see more anti-government demonstrations in recent days.

The demonstrators planned to march from downtown Lima to the Miraflores neighborhood, a characteristic neighborhood of the economic elite, on Thursday.

The government has called on the protesters to be peaceful.

Boluarte has said she supports a plan to push back presidential and congressional elections originally scheduled for 2026 to 2024.

Many demonstrators say there is no dialogue with a government they believe has unleashed so much violence against its citizens.

As protesters gathered in Lima, more violence erupted in southern Peru.

In the city of Macusani, protesters set fire to the police station and courthouse on Wednesday after two people were killed and another seriously injured by gunfire during anti-government protests. The person injured died in hospital on Thursday morning, a city health official said.

Activists have dubbed Thursday’s demonstration in Lima the Cuatro Suyos March, a reference to the four cardinal points of the Inca Empire. It is also the name given to a mass mobilization in 2000, when thousands of Peruvians took to the streets against the autocratic government of Alberto Fujimori, which resigned months later.

There are several key differences between those demonstrations and this week’s protests.

“In 2000, the people were protesting against a regime that was already in power,” Cardenas said. “In this case, they are standing up against a government that has only been in power for a month and is incredibly fragile.”

The 2000 protests also had a centralized leadership and were led by political parties. “What we have now is something much more fragmented,” Coronel said.

The latest protests have been largely grassroots efforts with no clear leadership.

“We have never seen a mobilization of this magnitude, a thought has already been installed in the peripheries that it is necessary, urgent to transform everything,” said Gustavo Montoya, a historian at the National University of San Marcos. “I feel like we are witnessing a historic shift.”

The protests have grown to the point that protesters are unlikely to be satisfied with Boluarte’s resignation and are now demanding more fundamental structural reforms.

The protests originated “in regions that have been systematically treated as second-class citizens,” Montoya said. “I think this will only continue to grow.”

Associated Press journalist Mauricio Muñoz contributed.

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