Peruvian President Dina Boluarte has denounced a series of protests scheduled to begin this week as a “threat to democracy”, as tensions continue to simmer in the South American nation.
Boluarte’s remarks came on the eve of what is being called the third “Toma de Lima” or “Taking of Lima”, a march on the capital city that is expected to attract thousands of protesters.
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In Tuesday’s statement, Boluarte called for a “peaceful march” without “violence, chaos or crisis”. She also criticised the protesters as being out of touch with the average Peruvian and accused her opponents of “waving their war flags”.
Boluarte’s administration has faced widespread anti-government demonstrations since December, when she was sworn in.
Her inauguration came shortly after former President Pedro Castillo attempted to dissolve parliament, in violation of the constitution. He was subsequently impeached and held on charges of “rebellion”.
Supporters of Castillo initially took to the streets to protest his removal, but the demonstrations have since grown, driven by discontent with the government overall.
Protesters have called for the dissolution of Congress, the drafting of a new constitution and the resignation of Boluarte, who formerly served as Castillo’s vice president.
Boluarte has also been criticised for the government’s harsh crackdown on the demonstrations, which blocked highways and shuttered airports and rail stations earlier this year.
The office of Peru’s ombudsman has estimated that more than 60 people have died in the protests, most of them demonstrators.
Human rights groups have denounced the government violence as disproportionate.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a report in May concluding that the government’s actions included extrajudicial killings and could constitute a “massacre”.
Amnesty International likewise said the violence showed evidence of “racial and socio-economic bias”. It accused state security forces of targeting people of “poor, Indigenous and campesino backgrounds” when deploying lethal weapons.
On Tuesday, ahead of this week’s demonstrations, Amnesty International renewed its call for Peru’s law enforcement to respect the rights of protesters.
“The police and the military have repeatedly used force unlawfully in recent months, costing the lives of dozens of people,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director at Amnesty International, said in the statement.
“These horrific scenes of state repression must not be repeated.”
About 24,000 police officers are expected to be deployed during the upcoming protest in Lima.
Jose de Echave, leader of the environmental nonprofit CooperAccion, issued a statement on Tuesday saying that members of Peru’s copper mining industry are expected to travel to the capital to join the marches.
Boluarte has blamed much of the violence on the protesters themselves, criticising some of them as terrorists and agitators. A recent poll found that Boluarte and the opposition-led Congress have approval ratings of 14 percent and six percent, respectively.
While Boluarte has expressed support for fast-tracking elections, Congress has turned down efforts to do so.