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Chaos in Lima as Peru protests spread

Thousands of protesters in the Peruvian capital Lima have descended on the city, calling for change and angered by the protests’ mounting death toll.

January 22, 2023
By Isabel Woodford
22 January 2023

Peru’s capital Lima has awakened to find one of the city’s most historic buildings burnt to the ground after another night of anti-government protests that extended across the country, as the president vowed to get tougher on “vandals.”

The destruction on Friday of the building, a near-century-old mansion in central Lima, was described by officials as the loss of a “monumental asset.” Authorities are investigating.

It came as thousands of protesters descended on the city calling for change and angered by the protests’ mounting death toll, which officially rose to 45 on Thursday.

Protests have rocked Peru since President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December after he attempted to dissolve the legislature to prevent an impeachment vote.

In southern Peru, Glencore’s major Antapaccay copper mine suspended operations on Friday after protesters attacked the premises – one of the largest in the country – for the third time this month.

Airports in Arequipa, Cusco and the southern city of Juliaca were also attacked by demonstrators this week, delivering a fresh blow to Peru’s tourism industry.

“It’s nationwide chaos, you can’t live like this. We are in a terrible uncertainty – the economy, vandalism,” said Lima resident Leonardo Rojas.

The government has extended a state of emergency to six regions, curtailing some civil rights.

But President Dina Boluarte has dismissed calls to resign and to hold snap elections, instead calling for dialogue and promising to punish those involved in the unrest.

“All the rigour of the law will fall on those people who have acted with vandalism,” Boluarte said on Thursday.

Some locals pointed the finger at Boluarte for “not taking any action” to quell the protests, which began on December 7 in response to the ouster and arrest of Castillo.

Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms. The police say protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives. 

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