Peru protests continue as mourners prepare to bury dead

Street barricades and marches against the government continued in Peru on Thursday as mourners prepared to bury the bodies of 17 people killed during clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the movement's epicenter.

It comes as trade unions, left-wing parties and social collectives readied for an afternoon march through Lima, the capital, to denounce a "racist and classist ... dictatorship."

Supporters of ousted president Pedro Castillo are demanding new elections and the removal of current leader Dina Boluarte.

They also want to close Congress and set up a body to rewrite the constitution -- which was adopted in 1993 under the mandate of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his presidency.

Protests broke out around the South American country in early December, after Castillo was ousted from office for attempting to dissolve parliament and rule by decree, seeking to prevent an impeachment vote against him.

The demonstrations have at times turned violent, and clashes with security forces have left 41 people dead, including a police officer who was burnt alive in a vehicle.

Almost half of the victims died in clashes on Monday night in the southern Puno region, where 17 people were due to be buried on Thursday.

Important tourism regions such as Cusco and Arequipa have also seen major protests.

The latest protester killed in violent clashes was in the city of Cusco on Wednesday night, where vandals damaged the building of a major hotel chain, torched a bus station, attacked shops and blocked train tracks with large rocks.

Cusco is the former capital of the Inca empire and the gateway city to the jewel of Peruvian tourism: the ancient Inca citadel Machu Picchu.

Peru's rights ombudsman said more than 50 people, including 19 police officers, were injured in the Cusco clashes, while police said they had arrested 11 people.

Road blocks remain in 10 of the country's 25 departments, the transport superintendency said.

Boluarte, 60, was Castillo's vice-president but took over once he was ousted on December 7.

Castillo, who was being investigated in several fraud cases during his tenure, has been remanded in custody for 18 months, charged with rebellion.

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