Fresh clashes in Lima as president seeks 'truce'

Peru's President Dina Boluarte called Tuesday for a "national truce" to end weeks of nationwide unrest, while a major march in the capital calling for her resignation and fresh elections again resulted in violent clashes with police.

Thousands of Peruvians from Andean regions, many in traditional dress, marched in central Lima chanting "Dina assassin," blaming her for the deaths of 46 people, mainly demonstrators, since protests broke out last month.

The march turned violent Tuesday evening when protesters, some carrying metal shields, threw stones while police responded with tear gas, according to AFP journalists on the scene.

Multiple people were arrested and several were injured, including two photographers, one with AFP, who were hit by pellets and stones.

Many Peruvians remain angry at the December 7 ouster of then-president Pedro Castillo, who was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

Boluarte, the vice president under Castillo, immediately assumed power.

Protests quickly broke out, largely fueled by anger in poor rural regions in the south where inhabitants -- mainly Indigenous -- felt that Castillo, who has Indigenous roots himself, represented their interests rather than those of the Lima elite.

Demonstrators have kept up weeks of protests and roadblocks and are also demanding the dissolution of Congress and the rewriting of the constitution.

Another day of protests was already planned for Wednesday in numerous cities throughout the country.

Earlier in the day, Boluarte called for "a national truce to allow for the establishment of dialogue, to fix the agenda for each region and develop our towns."

Speaking at a press conference with foreign media, a visibly emotional Boluarte apologized several times for those killed in the protests, but ruled out resigning.

"I will go once we have called a general election... I have no intention of remaining in power."

Under Peru's current constitution, the president cannot run for immediate reelection.

- No 'truce' -

Boluarte said she was sure Congress would agree in February to advance elections, currently scheduled for April 2024.

Asked about her possible resignation, Boluarte scoffed at the idea that it would "solve the crisis and the violence."

On Tuesday evening, authorities announced that the Cusco airport, a gateway to the country's famed Machu Pichu tourist site, was once again closed due to protests in the mountainous region.

Back in Lima, 35-year-old protester Carlos Avedano said Boluarte's message was "pitiful."

"The Peruvian people, all of us, we are not going to have a truce," he said.

"The only thing that the people want is that she resigns and that there are new elections."

Police fired tear gas to repel demonstrators heading towards Congress, AFP journalists saw.

At least one person was bleeding from their head and an injured woman was heard screaming near an ambulance.

One protester carried a big doll with a bloody knife in its hand and a picture of Boluarte attached.

Boluarte is due to have a video meeting with the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Peru.

Her government has come under fire from rights groups over alleged repression of protests and the disproportionate use of force by security forces.

- Castillo 'no victim' -

Boluarte has called a state of emergency in Peru, allowing the army to assist police in maintaining order.

"I will appear before the OAS to tell the truth. The Peruvian government and especially Dina Boluarte have nothing to hide," she said.

Boluarte claims some of the protesters were killed by ammunition that is not used by the police.

The president said the deaths "hurt me, as a woman, a mother and a daughter."

She also hit out at her predecessor Castillo, saying he sparked unrest by trying to broaden his powers in a bid to avoid an impeachment vote and stave off corruption investigations.

"It suited him to stage a coup d'etat so he could play the victim and mobilize all this paramilitary apparatus so as not to answer before the public prosecutor for the acts of corruption that he is accused of," said Boluarte.

"There is no victim here, Mr Castillo. There is a bleeding country because of your irresponsibility."

Boluarte is from the same left-wing party as Castillo and was his running mate during his successful 2021 election campaign. She served as his vice president before replacing him.

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