Peru declares state of emergency as ousted leader remains in prison

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Published: 12/15/2022 6:31:18 AM

Peru declared a nationwide state of emergency Wednesday over violent protests against the ouster and arrest of ex-president Pedro Castillo that have left seven people dead.

Castillo's supporters have taken to the streets and set up roadblocks countrywide in protests that have also left 200 injured as they demand his release and the holding of early elections.

The country plunged into crisis last week when Castillo tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, but was quickly impeached by lawmakers and arrested on his way to seek refuge in the Mexican embassy.

The new President Dina Boluarte has struggled to quell tensions, and has now called for the next election -- normally due in 2026 -- to be brought forward to December 2023, after an earlier bid to hold them in 2024 failed to halt the protests.

Defense Minister Alberto Otarola announced the new 30-day state of emergency due to "acts of vandalism and violence," and roadblocks, and said police and the armed forces "would have control of the whole territory."

He said the measure involved "the suspension of the freedom of movement and assembly" and could also include a night-time curfew.

- 'Humiliation and mistreatment' -

Last week, a judge ordered Castillo to be held in jail for seven days, and he was meant to be released on Wednesday.

However, prosecutors filed a request late on Tuesday to hold him in pre-trial detention for 18 months.

Judge Juan Checkley on Wednesday postponed a hearing on the new request until Thursday after defense attorneys argued they had not received all documents from the public prosecutor.

However, he also ordered Castillo to remain in detention for another 48 hours.

"Enough! The outrage, humiliation and mistreatment continue," wrote Castillo on Twitter, adding that he would petition the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to "intercede."

Castillo, a leftist former school teacher, was in power for only 17 months in the South American nation that is prone to political instability and is now on its sixth president in six years.

His short period in office was marked by a power struggle with the opposition-dominated Congress, and six investigations into him and his family mainly for corruption.

On Tuesday, Castillo called his arrest unjust and arbitrary and said he would "never give up and abandon this popular cause that brought me here."

He also called on security forces "to lay down their arms and stop killing these people thirsty for justice."

- 'Serious social convulsion' -

Protesters have set up roadblocks in numerous regions.

The worst-hit areas are in the north and south, including the region of Cusco, a tourism lure that is home to the Machu Picchu Inca citadel, and Peru's second city, Arequipa.

In Lima, dozens of demonstrators threw stones at the police on Tuesday evening as they tried to reach Congress, with the police firing tear gas to disperse them.

Five people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces on Monday, following another two on Sunday.

Six of the seven deaths have been in the Apurimac region, where Boluarte was born.

Rights ombudsman Eliana Revollar told AFP on Tuesday that things could still get worse.

"This is a very serious social convulsion. We fear that it will lead to an uprising because there are people calling for an insurrection, who are asking to take up arms," said Revollar.

Indigenous and agrarian organizations called an indefinite strike to begin on Tuesday, forcing the train service between the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu to be suspended.

It left many tourists stranded at the tourist site, according to Machu Picchu mayor Darwin Baca, who asked for help evacuating them.

"I was meant to leave Cuzco yesterday (Tuesday) by train and take a flight to Lima to go home, but now the situation is not clear," a Belgian tourist who gave his name only as Walter, told AFP.



Source: AFP 

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