Peru: Another minister resigns as protests continue

LIMA (HPD) — A minister of Peruvian President Dina Boluarte resigned from the cabinet on Wednesday amid back-to-back protests in Lima and other parts of the country calling for the resignation of the president and members of Parliament.

Production Minister Sandra Belaunde has submitted her resignation letter, Prime Minister Alberto Otárola’s office confirmed to The Associated Press. Otárola thanked the “commitment and professionalism performed.” The reasons for the departure from him were not reported.

Belaunde became the fourth minister to resign since the Boluarte government began on December 7. The other three ministers – Education, Culture and Labor – resigned over disagreements in the way the government has dealt with the protests.

Demonstrations in Lima tried Wednesday to reach Parliament, the country’s most discredited institution, but were stopped by police using tear gas canisters. In the morning, hundreds of protesters arrived outside the United States embassy in Lima and demanded a statement “rejecting” the indiscriminate use of force by the Boluarte government.

The Organization of American States, meanwhile, heard Boluarte in a protocol session, a week after one of the special envoys to Peru of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requested an investigation into the bullets that have killed protesters, to determine who shot them

The president thanked the OAS for sending observers and said that the acts of violence are being investigated so that those responsible are brought to justice. She did not, however, allude to any ballistics investigation or offer details of the investigations.

Through a virtual connection from Lima with a protocol meeting of the Permanent Council of the organization in Washington, Boluarte emphasized that Peru needs elections as soon as possible in order to get out of the crisis. Boluarte urged the countries of the region to accompany this democratic exit and said that he will not surrender to authoritarian groups that promote destabilization.

“The political crisis that Peru is going through can go through the course of violence, death and destruction, or it can be resolved in peace, in dialogue and in democracy,” said the president in a session of about 30 minutes. “I am not going to surrender to authoritarian groups that want to impose solutions that are not part of our constitutional order or the democratic tradition,” said the president.

He recalled that he asked Congress to approve early elections. Boluarte has said that he will stay until the date agreed by the legislators, who need to ratify the request approved in the first vote in December so that the general elections are held in April 2024.

The president thanked the solidarity and concern for the violence expressed by her colleagues at the Celac summit, but also asked what some of them are proposing as a solution. “The way out of violence or the way out of peace and democracy?” she insisted.

The session was called at the request of the president and there was no opportunity for questions.

Demonstrations expanded in Lima in the last week after they exploded in the Andes for more than a month, leaving more than fifty victims, almost all of them civilians.

Boluarte asked the demonstrators for a truce the day before to establish dialogue tables and “to be able to set the agenda for each region and develop the peoples.” But the response from the street was a new day of mobilizations in Lima that registered clashes between protesters and police.

In contrast to the international concern about the excessive force in the response of the uniformed officers to the demonstrations, the president defended the “immaculate” work of the police. She also accused drug dealers, illegal miners and smugglers of fueling the protests.

The 56 deaths in less than two months of the Boluarte government, reported by the Ombudsman’s Office until Tuesday, have inflamed the protesters – mainly peasants from the Andes but also university students and migrants from the Andean region.

The protests began after Boluarte – who was vice president of President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first rural-born president – was sworn in on December 7 as the new president. Boluarte had promised exactly one year before that if the president was dismissed she would resign from office.

Castillo was ousted that same day after trying to dissolve Congress to avoid a vote to remove him from office.

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Associated Press writer Gisela Salomón contributed to this report from Miami.

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