Peru’s President Lifts Curfew That Shut Down Capital to Curb Protests

LIMA, Peru — Demonstrations continued in Peru on Tuesday night after President Pedro Castillo lifted an unprecedented emergency decree suspending civil liberties in the capital, Lima, as his increasingly isolated government struggled over a series of violent protests over rising fuel, fertilizer and food costs that have plagued the country in recent days.

The president had announced the curfew just before midnight Monday, in a televised report that surprised residents of the capital of nearly 10 million people and drew criticism from many sectors of Peruvian society. When issuing the restrictions, he had cited recent unrest and demanded that residents of Lima and the neighboring port city of Callao remain in their homes for about 24 hours.

He was forced to return on Tuesday when protesters wearing the red-and-white jerseys of the national football team and waving Peruvian flags defied orders to demand his resignation in downtown Lima, while Mr Castillo held talks with lawmakers. Protesters celebrated outside Congress after widespread discontent led Mr Castillo to reconsider his opinion.

“Peru isn’t going through a good time,” Mr. Castillo said after announcing that he would be lifting the curfew. He added that his administration needed to act to resolve issues, saying: “We are going to the presidential office to sign and cancel this immobility order.”

But clashes between protesters and police continued as dusk fell, with officers firing tear gas and people pelting them with rocks. The number of protesters dwindled as night fell, but local television reported that some set fires and destroyed the offices of the judiciary, prosecutor’s office and the electoral council.

The order had come into effect just two hours after Mr Castillo’s televised announcement, which came as a shock to a country where many have lost confidence in the government after successive corruption scandals, political feuds and unrest in recent years – those three sessions have forced presidents and former leaders and politicians into prison.

The move was immediately denounced as disproportionate and authoritarian by human rights lawyers, activists and critics, with analysts saying it revealed a growing paranoia in Castillo’s government as he ruled erratically in its first eight months and supported the entire political spectrum has lost. in the office.

Eduardo Dargent, a political scientist in Lima, called it “a defensive measure of a weak government, a clumsy government that is getting weaker by the day.”

The Ombudsman’s office, a state-owned human rights agency, and representatives of various political parties, human rights groups and business associations had all called on Mr Castillo to withdraw the measure. On Tuesday afternoon, at least hundreds of protesters defied the lockdown order and gathered in the center to protest and demand Mr Castillo’s resignation.

The demonstrations against rising fuel and fertilizer prices, initially triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, entered their second week on Monday and had grown into full-blown anti-government protests in several regions, with at least four deaths due to the unrest.

While most of the violence in recent days had taken place outside the capital, a minister in Mr Castillo’s cabinet said the decision to impose a curfew across Lima was based on information from far-right lawmaker Jorge Montoya. , a former Marine officer who just a week ago supported a second failed attempt to impeach the president.

Montoya told reporters on Tuesday that he was aware of intelligence showing that people were planning to “come down from the hills” to loot Lima, following a conspiracy theory in the capital that plays with racist tropes about Peruvians from the Andes.

Residents of the capital banged pots and pans at noon on Tuesday to protest the measure. The streets of the capital were mostly empty during the day, according to images broadcast on local news channels, as public transport had been shut down, schools were closed and police set up checkpoints to restrict public transport.

Juan Lopez, 27, a doorman in Lima, didn’t hear about the curfew until Tuesday morning. “Everything was desolate,” he said.

“He promised so much, but he hasn’t done anything,” Mr. Lopez said, referring to Mr. Castillo. The state of emergency appeared to be a “provocation,” he added. “People will revolt.”

Mr Castillo, a farmer and former union activist who led for more than two months a teachers’ strike that closed schools in 2017, announced the decree on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Alberto Fujimori’s “self-coup”, when the former strong man ordered the military to take control of Congress and the courts, beginning his authoritarian rule.

Like Mr. Fujimori, Mr. Castillo was democratically elected on a populist platform, propelled by a rise in anti-establishment sentiment after years of economic and political crises. In last year’s election, he narrowly defeated Mr Fujimori’s daughter, who had come to embody the political elite.

In his first eight months in office, Mr. Castillo has burned political capital and dropped his approval rating as he zigzagged left to right, stumbling from scandal to scandal and making a series of controversial appointments, without proposing any meaningful reforms.

He has survived two impeachment attempts so far and faces mounting corruption charges that analysts say will almost certainly lead him to a formal investigation for criminal activity once his term in office and presidential immunity ends.

“As this kind of incompetence and ineffectiveness continues, the authoritarian temptation grows, and that’s where this comes from,” said Jo-Marie Burt, a professor of Latin American studies at George Mason University. Professor Burt lived in Lima during the country’s bloody internal conflict in the 1980s, when nighttime curfews became routine as the government cracked down on left-wing insurgency.

Even during the worst periods of violence, Peru has not imposed a 24-hour curfew, she said.

After ignoring the protests for several days, Mr Castillo accused their leaders of being paid to stir up unrest, infuriating protesters. His prime minister said people should eat fish if they could no longer afford chicken, even though fish is more expensive, and his defense minister appeared to minimize the four deaths linked to the protests.


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