Violent police repression kills another protester in Peru, death toll rises to 54

Despite massive protests demanding her resignation, President Boluarte has refused to resign, while criminalizing social struggle and blaming protesters for inciting violence

January 20, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch

On Thursday, January 19, tens of thousands of Peruvians mobilized across the country, demanding the resignation of de-facto President Dina Boluarte, the closure of the right-wing dominated Congress, early general elections, and a new constitution through a Constituent Assembly.

The capital, Lima, was the epicenter of the anti-government demonstrations. Indigenous and peasant communities as well as members of diverse social organizations and trade unions from all regions of Peru traveled in caravans to come to Lima as part of the second ‘March from the Four Corners.’ The march was organized to raise the demand of the marginalized masses of remote Peru for radical political changes in the country as well as to express their solidarity with ousted president Pedro Castillo. In the afternoon, under the banner of the ‘Takeover of Lima’, tens of thousands of people organized massive marches from different parts of the capital to the Plaza San Martín in central Lima. From there, the protesters marched towards Congress.

Massive peaceful mobilizations were also held in Arequipa, Cusco, Lambayeque, Puno, and Tacna, among other regions. Additionally, at least 145 roads and highways were blocked in 18 of the 24 regions. The nationwide mobilizations and roadblocks were organized as a part of a national civic strike called by the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) and the National Assembly of Peoples (ANP).

Repression

The Boluarte government customarily resorted to violent repression to respond to these peaceful demonstrations. The government deployed about 10,000 police and military officers just in Lima. The security forces used tear gas and pellets to suppress the protests across the country, leaving at least one dead in Arequipa and dozens injured in different cities.

In Lima, the anti-riot police fired swirls of teargas outside Congress to block protesters, injuring dozens of people. Despite the repression, thousands of people remained on the streets in the evening to continue their peaceful protests. However, the police also once again returned to repress them. Amid the clashes, a major fire broke out at a building near the Plaza San Martín. Firefighters arrived at the scene and began evacuating residents in the surrounding houses. The residents in the area said the fire was caused by tear gas bombs thrown by police.

“They threw tear gas bombs on the roof and the fire started,” said the son of the owner of the building that caught fire, blaming the police for causing the incident.

In Arequipa, the second largest city in the country, the police shot and killed at least one protester and injured ten others at the Añashuayco bridge, when the residents were en route to the local airport to occupy it. The victim was identified as Jhancarlo Condori Arcana, 30 years old, who received a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Meanwhile, the local media confirmed the death of another protester in the Puno department. The victim was 30-year-old Salomón Valenzuela Chua. He died at the San Martín de Porres hospital, in the city of Macusani, after being gravely injured the day before. On January 18, the police opened fire against protesters who tried to occupy a police station in the city as a measure of protest. Police shot Valenzuela on the right side of the chest. He passed away in the ICU and left four children orphaned.

Valenzuela was the second fatal victim of the brutal police repression from that day. On Wednesday, the local media reported the death of a 35-year-old woman, who police killed with a gunshot to the head.

With the latest victims, the death toll from state repression of anti-government protests rose to 54.

On Friday, January 20, thousands of people hit the streets in Lima, Puno and Tacna, rejecting the brutal police and military repression and demanding justice and reparations for the victims.

Boluarte refuses to resign, attracts criticism 

Despite the massive protests, in a national address on Thursday night, Boluarte refused to resign, while criminalizing the social struggle and blaming protesters for inciting violence in the country.

Boluarte said that her government remains “firm”, calling on the protesting sectors to engage in dialogue. However, she also classified the demonstrations as “criminal acts and vandalism,” adding that those responsible for violence and vandalism would not go ”unpunished”. She further said that “this is not a peaceful march,” adding, “in their protests there is no social agenda that the country needs.”

Vladimir Cerrón, progressive leader and the founder of Free Peru party that sponsored Castillo’s presidential candidacy in 2021, rejected Boluarte’s response to the social protests.

“Dina Boluarte continues to blame the people for the acts of vandalism, without a minimum of self-criticism. We do not know who advises her, but each measure taken is a new bombshell,” he tweeted.

“Someone else is using Boluarte’s head to express themself, because no person in their right mind can have such steep pride with 52 deaths on their hands,” Cerrón wrote in another tweet.

“Boluarte does not understand that the people have not come for alms, but to recover their political power that the oligarchy thinks is their exclusive patrimony,” he added.