ANDAHUAYLAS, Peru (AP) — Peruvian anger at their government is nowhere more evident than in Andahuaylas, a remote rural Andean community where the poor have struggled for years and voter support helped elect now-ousted President Pedro Castillo. a peasant like them.
Such is their anger that protests continued on Monday despite the deaths of four people over the weekend, including two young demonstrators, including 17-year-old Beckham Romario Quispe Garfias.
As thousands poured into the streets, Raquel Quispe remembered her brother as a talented athlete who was tired of feeling invisible in the eyes of politicians. It is named after English football great David Beckham and Brazilian football phenomenon Romario turned politician.
Clouds over him, he stood outside the hospital where his body was kept and, with anger simmering in his voice, sometimes betraying tears, summed up what had driven him and others to protest since Castillo’s ouster last week: democracy by exception.
“For them, for those in Congress, the only valid opinion is the opinion of Peruvians with money, rich people,” said Quispe, an early childhood education teacher.
“They do what they want. For them… the vote of the provinces is not valid, it is useless. But the voice of the people of Lima is taken into account. This is an injustice for all of Peru.”
About 3,000 people took to the streets on Monday to protest and mourn and pay their respects in front of the white caskets of the youths who died at the weekend. Throughout the community, rocks were strewn along roads marked by still simmering fires. The airstrip used by the armed forces remained closed, and the black smoke still lingered over a nearby building.
Demonstrators in rural communities, including Andahuaylas, continued to call for President Dina Boluarte to step down and call general elections to replace him and all members of Congress. They also want authorities to release Castillo, who was detained Wednesday after being ousted by lawmakers after he sought to leave Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.
Although protesters have also gathered in the capital Lima, demonstrations have been particularly heated in rural areas, in strongholds for Castillo, a former school teacher and political newcomer from the impoverished Andean region.
On Monday, protesters went a step further by blocking access to an international airport in southern Peru for several hours and occupying its runway. Demonstrations in Arequipa, home to the airport, have left one protester dead, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola told lawmakers at a congressional session on civil unrest. Another protester was killed in the state, which includes Andahuaylas, deputies said.
The tension came even after Boluarte bowed to protesters’ demands hours earlier, announcing in a nationally televised address that he would send Congress a proposal to extend the election until April 2024 – reversing his earlier claim that he should remain president for the rest of the term. 3 1/2 years of his predecessor’s tenure.
In his address to the people, Boluarte declared a state of emergency in the regions outside Lima, where the protests were particularly violent.
Boluarte announced that he would propose early elections to Congress, saying, “In this difficult time, my duty as president of the republic is to interpret the wishes, interests and concerns of the vast majority of Peruvians.”
Boluarte, 60, will replace Castillo hours after he stunned the country by ordering the dissolution of Congress, which in turn dismissed him for “permanent moral incapacity.” Castillo was arrested on charges of sedition.
Members of Boluarte’s Cabinet appeared before Congress on Monday to report on the protests. Far-right lawmaker Jorge Montoya called for appropriate measures to end the unrest, telling Castillo’s supporters that the “chapter is closed” now that he has been removed.
“These are not protests, they are acts of terrorism that should be severely punished,” Montoya said. “You can’t defend a situation in extremes.”
In Andahuaylas, about 80% of voters who voted during the runoff elections last year supported Castillo. Among his proposals was a rewrite of the country’s constitution, which was last drafted and approved in 1993 under the government of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, whose daughter Keiko Castillo lost the presidency.
Rosario Garfias was among those who demonstrated outside the hospital where her 17-year-old son’s body was kept. Speaking in Quechua, one of Peru’s indigenous languages, she expressed her heartbreak over her son’s death.
“My mother complains about her language. I know that many people do not understand him, even the Congress does not understand it,” said his daughter Raquel Quispe. “He says that … he is in a lot of pain because they killed him like they did in a slaughterhouse. My mother, like my family, wants justice for my brother.”
Garcia Cano reported from Lima.
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