More than 50 injured in Peru as protests cause ‘countrywide chaos’

Dozens of Peruvians were injured after tensions flared again on Friday night as police clashed with protesters in anti-government demonstrations that are spreading across the country.

In the capital Lima, police officers used tear gas to repel protesters who threw glass bottles and stones, while fires burned in the streets, local television footage showed.

In the southern region of Puno, about 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the town of Ilave, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said in a statement to the media.

A police station in Zepita, Puno, was also on fire, Romero said.

Health authorities in Ilave reported eight patients hospitalized with injuries, including broken arms and legs, bruised eyes and punctured abdomens.

By late afternoon, 58 people had been injured across the country in demonstrations, according to a report by Peru’s ombudsman.

The unrest followed a day of unrest on Thursday, when one of Lima’s most historic buildings burned down, as President Dina Boluarte vowed to get tough on “vandals.”

The destruction of the building, a nearly century-old mansion in central Lima, was described by officials as the loss of a “monumental asset.” Authorities are investigating the cause.

Romero claimed Friday that the fire was “properly planned and arranged.”

Thousands of protesters descended on Lima this week demanding change and outraged by the rising death toll from the protests, which officially stood at 45 on Friday.

Protests have rocked Peru since President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December after trying to dissolve the legislature to avoid an impeachment vote.

The unrest has been concentrated until this week in the south of Peru.

In the Cusco region, Glencore’s main Antapaccay copper mine suspended operations on Friday after protesters attacked the facility, one of the country’s largest, for the third time this month.

Airports in Arequipa, Cusco and the southern city of Juliaca were also attacked by protesters, dealing another blow to Peru’s tourism industry.

“It’s chaos at the national level, you can’t live like this. We’re in terrible uncertainty: the economy, the vandalism,” said Lima resident Leonardo Rojas.

The government has extended the state of emergency to six regions, curtailing some civil rights.

But Boluarte has rejected calls for her to resign and hold early elections, instead calling for dialogue and promising to punish those involved in the riots.

“All the rigor of the law will fall on those people who have acted with acts of vandalism,” said Boluarte on Thursday.

Some locals pointed the finger at Boluarte, accusing her of not taking steps to quell the protests, which began in December. 7 in response to the expulsion and arrest of Castillo.

Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms. Police say protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.

© Thomson Reuters 2023.

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