Peru’s president urges Congress to go ahead with elections amid deadly protests

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian President Dina Boloart, who said she leads a transitional government, urged the country’s Congress to pass a motion to bring forward the date for general elections at a news conference from the presidential palace on Saturday.

Boloart, a former vice president of Peru, assumed the presidency earlier this month after then-leftist President Pedro Castillo illegally tried to dissolve Congress and was arrested.

Since then, protests have broken out across the country, and at least 17 people have been killed. Authorities said five more died as a result of indirect consequences of the protests.

On Saturday, Boulwart responded to protesters calling on her to step down, saying “this does not solve the problem” and that she, in turn, had sent the bill to Congress.

On Friday, Peru’s Congress rejected a proposed constitutional reform to push elections to December 2023. Some members of Congress called on the legislature to reconsider the proposal.

“I demand a reconsideration of the vote to stir up the election,” Bulwart said, criticizing members of Congress who had previously abstained from voting.

It also rejected calls for a constitutional assembly, saying the time was “not right”. Some left-wing leaders have called for the assembly, which will rewrite Peru’s 1993 constitution, to strengthen the state’s role in the economy.

Boulwart said there will be a cabinet reshuffle in her cabinet in the coming days as well, after the Minister of Education and the Minister of Culture resigned on Friday.

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“We will reconfigure the cabinet to be able to install well-informed ministers in every sector,” she said.

Friday’s departure from the Cabinet raises questions about the continuation of the Boulwart government, which has been rocked by political turmoil.

Protests since the arrest of former President Castillo, who was in pretrial detention while facing charges of rebellion and conspiracy, have paralyzed Peru’s transportation system, closing airports and blocking highways.

On Wednesday, the Bulwart government declared a state of emergency, granting special powers to the police and restricting citizens’ rights, including the right to assemble.

Protesters have also blockaded Peru’s borders, leaving tourists stranded and choking off commerce.

“We want Congress shut down immediately,” Rene Mendoza, a protester on the border with Bolivia, told Reuters. “We want Dina Boulwart to resign.” “Today the Peruvian people are in mourning… all of Peru is in conflict.”

The commander of the Peruvian Armed Forces, Manuel Gomez, criticized the protesters during the press conference. “These bad guys go from violent to terrorist.”

Later on Saturday, police raided the headquarters of a left-wing party and a peasant group in the capital, Lima, on suspicion of protecting such “violent” actors, the agents alleged.

Left-wing politicians rejected the raids. “The state of emergency is being used to commit abuses,” said lawmaker Sigrid Bazan, who went to one of the sites.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Kaylee Madre) Additional reporting by Monica Machikao. Editing by Shizuo Nomiyama, Diane Kraft, and Jonathan Otis

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