At least 17 people have been killed in clashes in southern Peru after protests demanding early elections and the release of jailed former President Pedro Castillo resumed.
The dead in the city of Juliaca, where protesters were attempting to take control of the airport, included two teenagers, the country’s human rights office said on Monday. Another person was also reported killed in the nearby city of Chucuito, where protesters blocked a highway, according to the Associated Press news agency.
It was the highest death toll since the unrest began in early December following Castillo’s removal and arrest in the wake of a widely condemned attempt to dissolve Congress and head off his own impeachment. Castillo is serving 18 months of pre-trial detention on charges of rebellion, which he denies.
Castillo’s successor, his former running mate Dina Boluarte, has supported a plan to push up to 2024 elections for president and Congress originally scheduled for 2026. She has also expressed support for judicial investigations into whether security forces have acted with excessive force.
But such moves have so far failed to end the unrest, which, after a short respite around the Christmas and New Year holidays, has resumed in some of Peru’s poorest areas, where support for Castillo’s rule had been strongest.
Nationwide, protests were reported in about 13 percent of Peru’s provinces on Monday, many of them consisting of roadblocks making it impossible for truckers to deliver produce to market.
In Juliaca, near the banks of Lake Titicaca in Peru’s southern Puno region, a Reuters news agency witness recorded footage of gunshots and smoke on the streets as protesters took cover behind large metal plates and road signs, and threw rocks at police using improvised slingshots.