© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators clash with security forces during a protest demanding early elections and the release of jailed former President Pedro Castillo, near the Juliaca airport, in Juliaca, Peru January 9, 2023. REUTERS/Hugo Courotto
LIMA (Reuters) – A three-day mourning period began in southern Peru on Tuesday after 17 more people were killed in the most violent day of protests since they began in December over the ousting of former President Pedro Castillo.
The mourning period in the southeastern region of Puno came as Prime Minister Alberto Otarola was set to appear in the opposition-dominated Congress, seeking a vote of confidence in his cabinet – a constitutional requirement to lead a new government.
Otarola regretted the deaths on Monday night and said the unrest was caused by organized attackers financed by “dark” money, in a day in which at least 68 civilians and 75 police officers were injured according to the local ombudsman.
Social protests have left a total of 39 dead so far in different parts of the country.
Authorities called on prosecutors on Monday to launch investigations against those responsible.
Peru’s Interior Ministry said that a police vehicle was attacked early on Tuesday by “unknown persons” in the city of Juliaca, which is located in Puno, with one of the officers suffering multiple head injuries.
Hours later, Jorge Angulo, head of the operational command of the national police, confirmed the death of one policeman who was in the vehicle.
“At this moment, an autopsy is being performed to fully identify the form and circumstances in which he was injured, practically burned,” Angulo told television station Canal N.
Demonstrators are continuing to demand President Dina Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of Congress, constitutional changes and Castillo’s release.
Castillo is serving 18 months of pre-trial detention while being investigated for “rebellion” after trying to close Congress, a charge he denies.
Images from local media showed looting of businesses in Puno on Monday night and the region’s Juliaca airport remained closed on Tuesday.
Likewise, airport operations in the Andean region of Ayacucho remained suspended as a security measure.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has announced it will visit Peru this week from Wednesday to Friday to assess the situation.