Human rights defenders point out lack of criticism of abuses in Peru

LIMA (HPD) — More than 50 people have lost their lives in protests that have taken place on the streets of Peru since the nation’s democratically elected president was jailed, most of them at the hands of police, but only a few voices of concern have emerged internationally.

The relative silence of much of the regional and international community has disappointed human rights defenders, who are calling for condemnation of the state violence that has erupted since Pedro Castillo was ousted and jailed for trying to dissolve the Peruvian Congress.

“The feeling is that we are alone,” said Jennie Dador, executive secretary of Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator. Of “the States in the region, none do anything concrete,” she pointed out.

The absence of Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, at a meeting of regional leaders held Tuesday in the Argentine capital was notable, with most leaders avoiding mention of the civilian deaths in Peru.

In a defiant press conference on Tuesday, Boluarte called for a “national truce.” He blamed protesters for the political violence that has gripped the country, saying illegal miners, drug traffickers and people smugglers formed a “paramilitary force” to try to create chaos for political gain. He said numerous roadblocks and infrastructure damage have cost the nation more than $1 billion in lost production.

The president hinted that the protesters who died from gunshot wounds were attacked by other protesters, and said that investigations will show that their injuries are not compatible with the weapons that the police use. Meanwhile, some 90 police officers are hospitalized with bruises, to which Boluarte asked: “And their human rights?”

The government has not produced evidence that any of the injured policemen suffered a gunshot wound.

Human rights defenders have admitted that there have been acts of violence by some protesters, including attempts to seize control of airports and torch police stations, but noted that the protests have been mostly peaceful.

Some of the leaders present at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States pointed out that the government of Peru was responsible for the violence.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric commented that there is an “imperious need for a change of course in Peru because the balance left by the path of repression and violence is unacceptable.” For his part, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a staunch supporter of Castillo, demanded an “end to the repression.”

Activists say the attention they have received is far less than they would expect, considering that 56 people have died since Castillo’s vice president took office to replace him on December 7. Forty-five lost their lives in direct clashes with security forces, according to Peru’s ombudsman.

“The international community has expressed concern, but I really think it can be more forceful,” said César Muñoz, deputy director for the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. The region’s leaders could emphasize that the “rule of law means that there must be independent investigations of all deaths.”

In downtown Lima, protesters were beginning to gather for one more in a series of protests that began last week, when thousands of people, many from far flung Andean regions, poured into the capital to demand the resignation of Boluarte, that elections be held immediately and the dissolution of Congress. Most of the anti-government protests that took place before that were in remote regions of Peru, exposing deep divisions between residents of the capital and those in long-neglected rural areas.

In Lima, protesters have been greeted with tear gas, but not with bullets.

“Peru has gone unnoticed,” said Marina Navarro, executive director of Amnesty International in the South American nation. “Given the seriousness of the situation, with this number of people who have died, we don’t see that attention is being drawn as it could be done,” she added.

Private discussions on the matter were continuing in Buenos Aires, according to an Argentine Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he lacked the authority to discuss policy. “Peru is a thorny issue,” but pressure from some leaders has led to last-minute negotiations, he said.

The crisis that has given rise to the worst acts of political violence in Peru in more than two decades began when Castillo, the first Peruvian president from a rural Andean area, tried to avoid the third impeachment trial against his young government by ordering it to be dissolved. The congress. Instead, legislators fired him, and the national police arrested him before he could find asylum.

Boluarte said Tuesday that Castillo was solely to blame for trying to evade the numerous corruption investigations against him, insinuating that he was trying to “victimize himself by saying that they have given him a coup when he is the author of his own coup.” ”.

Questions about Boluarte’s sudden rise to power should not dampen criticism of police abuses, human rights organizations have said.

“There must be international pressure for this government to stop with this type of repressive attitude, and that has nothing to do with issuing an opinion on the legitimacy of the government,” said Manuel Tufró, who heads the justice and security division of the Center for Legal and Social Studies, an Argentine human rights organization.

The Boluarte government has made it clear that it will not accept criticism. After police raided a Lima university where some protesters were sheltering on Saturday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro tweeted that the Organization of American States should “examine the case of Peru.”

Prime Minister Alberto Otarola responded, telling Petro to “mind your business.” Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued formal protest notes against Petro and against Bolivian President Luis Arce, who expressed his support for the protests.

The European Union made one of the strongest statements. He noted on Monday that he “condemns the large number of victims since the start of the protests” and reiterated his rejection “of widespread acts of violence, as well as the disproportionate use of force by security forces.”

The United States ambassador in Lima, Lisa Kenna, also surprised many observers a few weeks ago when she said that “it is essential that law enforcement respect human rights, the right to protest and protect the citizenry.”

Some analysts said the weak regional response shows that Peru has lost importance due to its political crises, after having six presidents in the last six years.

“Peru as a country has lost presence,” said Oscar Vidarte, a professor of international relations at the Catholic University of Peru. “It is a chaotic country, a country that becomes ungovernable, questioned in terms of democracy and respect for human life.”

“Countries in the region have clearly turned their backs on him,” he said.

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Associated Press journalist Almudena Calatrava in Buenos Aires, Argentina contributed to this report.

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