Anti-government protests intensify in Peru

Access to the comments Comments
By Euronews  with Reuters
Police in riot gear block a street as a building burns behind them after a day a day of clashes with anti-government protesters in Lima, Peru. Thursday, 19 Jan. 2023.
Police in riot gear block a street as a building burns behind them after a day a day of clashes with anti-government protesters in Lima, Peru. Thursday, 19 Jan. 2023.   -   Copyright  Martin Mejia/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Anti-government protests are intensifying in Peru, with the country's capital, Lima, waking up on Friday to find one of its most historic buildings burnt to the ground.

A near-century old mansion in the city centre was destroyed after catching fire, which authorities have lamented as the loss of a "monumental asset." No casualties have been reported from the incident.

The government has subsequently denied rumours that the fire was caused by a tear gas bomb thrown by the police during the heated clashes.

The fire came after thousands of protesters descended on Lima earlier this week, calling for major changes and angered by the growing death toll from the protests, which officially rose to 45 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Arequipa, fresh clashes erupted between demonstrators and police, while operations at the region's main airport came to a halt on Thursday.

The city of Cusco's airport and another in the southern city of Juliaca also were targeted.

"It's nationwide chaos, you can't live like this. We are in a terrible uncertainty, the economy, vandalism," said Lima resident Leonardo Rojas.

Protests erupted in Peru last month following the arrest and ousting of left-wing former President Pedro Castillo, who made a self-coup attempt by trying to dissolve Congress. It led to a new government headed by Dina Boluarte, formerly the first vice president under Castillo.

The demonstrators, which include leftists and people from indigenous groups, are calling for Boluarte's resignation and snap elections.

The new leader, nevertheless, has rejected efforts to make her step down, pushing for dialogue and vowing to punish those involved in the unrest.

The government this week, moreover, extended a state of emergency to six regions, curbing certain civil rights.

"All the rigor of the law will fall on those people who have acted with vandalism," Boluarte said on Thursday.

Some locals criticised Boluarte for "not taking any action" to quell the protests. Human rights groups, on the other hand, have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms, with police in turn claiming protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.