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Peru: Government Declares State Of Emergency Amidst Raging Protests Demanding Pedro Castillo Be Freed

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Peru declared a countrywide state of emergency on Wednesday, giving police special powers and restricting freedoms including the right to assembly, after raging protests in the South American country for a week led to the death of at least eight people.

The protests flared after former President Pedro Castillo was expelled on Dec. 7 through impeachment. A leftist, Castillo was arrested after he attempted to dissolve the Congress illegally, fueling the political crises that has been going on since he was elected in 2021.

Prosecutors told the Supreme Court that they wanted pretrial detention for Castillo for a period of 18 months. The former president has been charged with rebellion and conspiracy. Peru’s Supreme Court listened to the request but after that suspended the session until Thursday.

Vice president at the time of Castillo’s tenure, Dina Boluarte, was sworn as the President after his impeachment, and her presidency has divided other Latin American leaders.

The political crisis has fuelled anger among people and also violent protests around the Andean country, more so in the rural and mining areas that launched the former peasant farmer and teacher to office in July last year.

As the protestors clashed with the police, eight people, mostly teenagers, lost their lives, authorities have said. At least six died due to gunfire, as told by rights groups. The protests were seen as violent as those carrying them out blocked highways, set fires to buildings and intruded airports.

Explaining about the emergency, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola said, “We have agreed to declare a state of emergency throughout the country, due to the acts of vandalism and violence.”

“This requires a forceful response from the government,” he further said, and added that it would mean a curtailment of certain freedoms, like the right to assembly and freedom of transit for a certain period, and would give authorities the power to check homes without a warrant.

Boluarte spoke with reporters from the presidential palace and urged for peace and said “we can’t have a dialogue if there’s violence between us.”

She also suggested that elections could be shifted ahead to December 2023 from April 2024, a date she had given earlier. The elections are presently scheduled for 2026 when Castillo’s tenure would have ended.

Boluarte’s government also discussed things with a number of officials from the region on Wednesday, in an attempt to stem international support as the she has faced criticism from Latin American leftists such as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The officials she spoke to, said Foreign Minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi, were her counterparts from Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Just a day before, Boluarte held meeting with a number of European ambassadors.

Castillo has being held at the DIROES police station in Lima since his arrest. After the initial seven days of pretrial custody ended on Wednesday, he urged his supporters to visit the jail and demanded that he be released.

“I await you all at the DIROES facilities to join you in a hug,” Castillo wrote in a hand-written message that he posted on Twitter, which he undersigned as “Constitutional President of Peru.” Castillo has denied all charges against him.

Castillo also asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to mediate on his behalf, while he was supported by a huge number of people who had gathered at the prison demanding his freedom.

Castillo, however, cannot be released while the Supreme Court considers the prosecutors’ request, according to sources from the prosecutor’s office and experts.

The judiciary stated on Twitter it would conduct a hearing by Friday on a “request for pretrial detention for 18 months against former president Pedro Castillo and (former Prime Minister) Anibal Torres, investigated for the crimes of rebellion and others.”

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