By DANIEL POLITI and FRANKLIN BRICEÑO
LIMA - People poured into Peru’s coastal capital, many from remote Andean regions, for a protest Thursday against President Dina Boluarte and in support of her predecessor, whose ouster last month launched deadly unrest and cast the nation into political chaos.
There was a tense calm in the streets of Lima Thursday morning ahead of the protest that supporters of former president Pedro Castillo hope will open a new chapter in the weeks-long movement to demand Boluarte’s resignation, the dissolution of Congress, immediate elections and structural change in the country. Castillo, Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background, was impeached after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.
“We have delinquent ministers, presidents that murder and we live like animals in the middle of so much wealth that they steal from us every day,” Samuel Acero, a farmer who heads up the regional committee of protests for the southeastern city Cusco, said as he walked in downtown Lima Thursday morning. “We want Dina Boluarte to leave, she lied to us.”
The protests have so far been held mainly in Peru’s southern Andes, with 53 people dying amid the unrest, the large majority killed in clashes with security forces.
“We’re at a breaking point between dictatorship and democracy,” said Pedro Mamani, a student at the National University of San Marcos. Students there are housing demonstrators who traveled to Peru’s capital for the protest that is being popularly referred to as the “takeover of Lima.”
The university was surrounded by police officers, who also congregated at several key points of Lima’s historic downtown district.
A total of 11,800 police officers will be deployed throughout Lima, Victor Zanabria, the head of the police force there told local media. He played down the size of the protests, saying he expected around 2,000 people to participate.
The demonstrations that erupted last month and subsequent clashes with security forces amount to the worst political violence Peru has experienced in more than two decades and has shined a spotlight on the deep divisions that exist in the country between the urban elite largely concentrated in Lima and the poor rural areas, where citizens have often feel relegated.
“In my own country, the voices of the Andes, the voices of the majority have been silenced,” Florencia Fernández, a lawyer who lives in Cusco, said Wednesday ahead of the protest. “We’ve had to travel to this aggressive city, this centralist city, and we say, the Andes have descended.”
By bringing the protest to Lima, demonstrators hope to give fresh weight to the movement that began when Boluarte, who was the vice president, was sworn into office on Dec. 7 to replace Castillo.
“When there are tragedies, bloodbaths outside the capital it doesn’t have the same political relevance in the public agenda than if it took place in the capital,” said Alonso Cárdenas, a professor of public policies at the Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Lima. “The leaders have understood that and say, they can massacre us in Cusco, in Puno, and nothing happens, we need to take the protest to Lima,” Cárdenas added, citing two cities that have seen protest violence.