Peru police use tear gas to clear protests after Machu Picchu evacuated
LIMA, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Police used tear gas to disperse protesters trying to approach the headquarters of Peru’s Congress on Wednesday, as thousands took to the streets two weeks after a wave of deadly protests to oust former President Pedro Castillo .
In the early evening hours, there were no reports of clashes with police, who closed the entrance to Congress, although transport authorities reported 35 gridlock points across the country.
Nearly two dozen died in protests across the country last month.
On Wednesday, protesters marched in Lima and Arequipa, many carrying the country’s red and white flag, and demanded the resignation of current president Dina Boluarte, the shutdown of Congress, changes to the constitution and the release of Castillo.
Meanwhile, authorities said trains to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu had been suspended, a day after some 2,062 tourists were evacuated.
Prime Minister Alberto Otarola had earlier called for the demonstrations to be peaceful.
Authorities had “scrupulously complied” with Boluarte’s instructions to use force judiciously, Defense Minister Jorge Chavez told local newspaper RPP.
Castillo is serving 18 months in custody while being investigated for “rebellion,” a charge the former president denies. He was ousted after attempting to illegally dissolve Congress and reorganize the judiciary.
Boluarte, a former vice president who took power shortly after Castillo’s ouster, has proposed bringing the next general election.
Television footage earlier on Wednesday showed police and the army guarding the headquarters of public institutions in several areas where protests were planned, including Ayacucho, a region with the highest number of casualties in December’s demonstrations.
On Tuesday, thousands of people had marched in Lima and elsewhere demanding “peace and calm”.
Boluarte installed a “Crisis Monitoring and Control” center on Wednesday morning, together with the Ministers of Defense and Interior.
“I call for peace, tranquility and unity to promote the development of the motherland,” she said in a speech.
Sergio Belloso, vice president of Peru’s hotel and restaurant association, said the lack of tourists in 2022 caused by the political and social crisis had cost the country about $2.5 billion.
Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Tomasz Janowski
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