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At least 12 people died Monday in Peru as protesters trying to storm an airport clashed with security forces in the latest violent spasm of a month-old political crisis.
This new chapter of bloodshed took place in the southeastern city of Juliaca, in the Puno region, an official in the local ombudsman’s office told AFP.
The protesters were demanding the departure of President Dina Boluarte, who took over after the ouster and arrest of then president Pedro Castillo on December 7.
Castillo’s removal after he tried to dissolve congress and start ruling by decree — he faced several corruption probes — has triggered weeks of clashes nationwide in this country beset by years of political instability.
Protesters angry over the removal of the leftist Castillo want Boluarte to resign and new elections right away. They have already been moved up from 2026 to April of 2024.
The people killed Monday in Juliaca had gunshot wounds, an official at Calos Monge Hospital told a Peruvian TV channel.
Overall, the clashes sparked by the ouster of Castillo have now left 34 people dead around the country.
“What is happening is Peruvians are slaughtering each other. I ask for calm,” Juliaca’s Mayor Oscar Caceres said in a desperate plea for peace.
Demonstrators had already tried Saturday to overrun the Juliaca airport, which is being protected by police and soldiers.
Juliaca, located in the Puno region on the border with Bolivia, is home to many people from the Aymara indigenous group.
Puno has been a hotbed of anti-government protests since this crisis broke out. An open ended strike was declared there on January 4.
Protests against the Boluarte government took a break over the new year’s holidays but resumed that day.
As of Monday, protesters were blocking roads in six of the country’s 25 departments, including areas popular with tourists.
Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president and is a leftist like him. But many Indigenous people call her a traitor who does not defend their cause.
In another development Monday the government said it was barring entry to Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia, accusing him of trying to interfere in Peru’s affairs.
Morales, who was his country’s first Indigenous president, has expressed support for the protests against Boluarte, especially in the ethnic Aymara Puno region which borders Bolivia.