Protesters in Peru clash with police after thousands march in Lima | Peru

A march billed as the “takeover of Lima” escalated into clashes between protesters and riot police amid stone-throwing and volleys of tear gas Thursday night in Peru’s capital.

Thousands of protesters from all over the country cast in Lima earlier in the week to take part in a mass march demanding the resignation of President Dina Bolwarte after nearly six weeks of unrest that have killed more than 50 people, including one police officer, and eight people who died in strikes and blockades.

In a late-night televised address, Bolwarte said police were keeping the protests under control and that those responsible for the violence and vandalism would not go “unpunished,” adding that “this is not a peaceful march.” She said “the government is standing firm and its cabinet is more united than ever.”

Bolwarte claimed that the protests had “no social agenda” but rather sought to “violate the rule of law, generate chaos and disorder and seize power.” She added that the attacks on three regional airports were planned in advance and would be punished with “the full severity of the law”.

“To the Peruvian people, to those who want to work in peace and to those who generate protest actions, I say: I will not tire of calling them to a good dialogue, to tell them that we are working for the country,” she said.

One person was killed and about 10 were injured in clashes with police in the southern city of Arequipa on Thursday, according to Peru’s ombudsman’s office, as protesters reportedly tried to storm the airport. Several airports were closed and vast swathes of the country were paralyzed by more than 120 road blockades.

Riot police take cover after the Occupy Lima march on Thursday night. Photo: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters

Outrage at the rising death toll fueled growing protests that started in early December in support of ousted former president Pedro Castillo but turned to an overwhelming demand for the resignation of Bolwarte, the closing of Congress, and new elections. Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president and replaced him after he tried to shut down Congress and rule by decree on December 7.

Earlier Thursday, thousands marched around Lima’s San Martin Square, many holding banners of their place of origin. Peasant Security Organizations known as ronderos wore traditional whips and indigenous women wore traditional colorful skirts. There were chants of “Dina, murderer, the people disown you” amid banners showing Peru’s first female president bathed in blood.

“We want justice, we don’t want our dead to be forgotten,” Zulema Chacon told the Guardian. “We want this usurper out, she doesn’t represent us.”

“They are the thieves and they lie to us and they lie to us,” said Delia Zevalos, 52, a shopkeeper, referring to lawmakers in Congress, Peru’s most despised political body. “People have woken up, we are not children anymore, we know how to read and write… and no one can tell us what to do.”

Bolwarte, who last week said she would not resign, met with a representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier Thursday. Last week, the UN agency said it did “very concerned about increasing violence” in Peru.

Protesters in Peru clash with police after thousands march in Lima |  Peru
Demonstrators clashed with riot police on the AƱashuayco Bridge in Arequipa earlier Thursday. Photo: Diego Ramos/AFP/Getty Images

The US and UK ambassadors to Peru welcomed the meeting and issued statements on Thursday calling for calm and urging the government to seek dialogue.

In a statement in Spanish on TwitterUS Ambassador Lisa Kenna said it was “fundamental for law enforcement to respect human rights and protect citizens.”

In a similar statementher UK counterpart Gavin Cook called for “immediate and impartial investigations, accountability measures and justice for victims of reports of human rights abuses”.

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