Peru president refuses to quit as demonstrators seethe

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Peru’s embattled President Dina Boluarte said Sat-urday she would not step down in the face of violent protests over her predecessor’s ouster as she called on lawmakers to bring forward elections as a way to quell unrest.

The country’s Congress rejected a bid Friday to hold polls next December, more than two years earlier than scheduled, as deadly protests left thou-sands of tourists stranded near Machu Picchu and furious demonstrators — and some lawmakers — called for Boluarte’s departure.

But in an address aimed at tamping down the unrest rocking the South American nation, the new president stood defiant.

“What is solved by my resignation? We will be here, firmly, until Congress determines to bring forward the elections,” Boluarte told Peruvians.

On Friday, House speaker Jose Williams said the vote on the election schedule could be revisited during a forthcoming session of Congress.

Peru was plunged into political crisis on De-cember 7 when then-president Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested after he attempted to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

The unrest has swelled across several cities and regions, leaving at least 18 people dead, including minors.

In a televised address, Boluarte expressed regret for the protests and the deaths, most of which came in clashes with security forces including the military, which has been authorized to impose order under a state of emergency.

If armed troops were on the streets, “it has been to take care of and protect” Peru’s citizens, Boluarte said, adding that the protests were “overflowing” with violent elements that were coordinated and not spontaneous.

“These groups did not emerge overnight. They had tactically organized to block roads,” she said.

Protesters are calling for the release of Castillo, the resignation of Boluarte and closure of Congress, and immediate general elections.

Health minister Rosa Gutierrez said Friday that 18 people had been killed in clashes since Castillo’s arrest. Two cabinet ministers have resigned over the deaths.

Initially detained for seven days, Castillo was on Thursday ordered to spend 18 months in pretrial detention.

The leftist former schoolteacher stands accused of rebellion and conspiracy, and could be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty, according to public prosecutor Alcides Diaz.—APP