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Peru’s new leader urges calm as protests grow


LIMA: Peru’s new President Dina Boluarte called for calm Friday (Dec 9) as protests mounted after the impeachment and arrest of her predecessor Pedro Castillo, who stands accused of attempting a coup.

Police on Thursday fired tear gas and clashed with hundreds of protesters who demanded Castillo’s release.

Demonstrations continued on Friday, with protesters blocking roads with rocks, logs, and burning tires as they called for early elections.

Boluarte told journalists that if the situation “warrants it,” the government will consult with Congress on holding an early presidential vote.

She urged those “who are coming out in protest … to calm down”.

Peru was plunged into political crisis on Wednesday, when leftist Castillo – facing a third impeachment bid – tried to dissolve Congress and announced plans to rule by decree.

However, lawmakers quickly gathered to vote him out of office, and Castillo was arrested on his way to the embassy of Mexico, which had agreed to give him asylum.

The former rural school teacher, who won a shock election victory over Peru’s traditional elites in June 2021, is being held in provisional detention for seven days while prosecutors investigate charges of “rebellion and conspiracy.”

The charges carry a jail term of between 10 and 20 years.

Boluarte, who served as vice president under Castillo, was hastily sworn in as Peru’s first woman president just hours after the impeachment. She said she would form her government on Saturday.

However, doubt is mounting over her ability to hold onto the job until the end of her mandate in 2026 in a country prone to political instability that is now on its sixth president in six years.

Hundreds of protesters were blocking different sections of the Panamericana Sur highway for a second day on Friday, and further protests and blockades have been called in the capital Lima later in the day.

Protests have also been reported in several towns in Peru’s interior, where poverty is high, and Castillo drew a lot of support for his campaign as a humble man of the people.

Castillo, 53, landed in the crosshairs of the opposition-dominated Congress and prosecutors almost as soon as he took office.

He had six investigations opened against him during his short time as president, ranging from corruption to plagiarizing his thesis and heading a “criminal organization” involving his family and allies.

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