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Peru president urges congress to move elections forward

By Lucas AGUAYO,

Demonstrators demand 'justice' from the government of President Dina Boluarte, whom they blame for the deaths in the days of protests /AFP

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte made a renewed appeal Sunday for congress to hold early elections as a way to end weeks of deadly protests, warning that otherwise she will seek constitutional reform to make a vote happen.

The South American country has been embroiled in a political crisis with near-daily street protests since December 7, when then-president Pedro Castillo was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

In seven weeks of demonstrations, 48 people -- including one police officer -- have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters, according to the Ombudsman's Office of Peru.

Last month lawmakers moved up elections due in 2026 to April 2024, but as protests show no sign of abating, Boluarte now wants them held this year -- a call that Congress rejected on Saturday.

"Vote for Peru, for the country, by moving the elections up to 2023," the president said in an address to the nation.

"Tomorrow you have a chance to win the country's trust."

She added that if lawmakers refuse, she will propose a constitutional reform so that a first round of elections will be held in October and a runoff in December.

The legislature is scheduled to convene Monday to discuss the election timetable.

The unrest is coming mainly from poor, rural Indigenous people from southern Peru who had identified Castillo -- Indigenous and from that same region -- as one of their own who would fight to end poverty, racism and inequality from which they suffer.

On Saturday, hooded protesters wielding shields, stones and pieces of cement pried from public buildings fought with police in the fog of tear gas as Lima became the scene of scuffles and the city's first death from the protests was recorded.

Demanding that Boluarte resign and call fresh elections, Castillo supporters have blocked highways -- causing shortages of food, fuel and other basic supplies.

The government said it will soon deploy police and soldiers to clear the roadblocks.


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