Peru's President Dina Boluarte speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace in the capital Lima on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. AFP PHOTO

Peru’s leader calls for multiparty dialogue to end crisis

LIMA: Peru’s President Dina Boluarte on Friday called for a multiparty dialogue to help resolve her country’s political crisis, saying two months of sometimes deadly antigovernment protests had left the South American nation a “fragile democracy.”

Boluarte became president last December 7 after her predecessor Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

But since that day, she has faced calls to resign by protesters also demanding fresh elections.

Demonstrations have at times turned violent, and officials on Friday announced a new death, bringing the total number of people killed in clashes between security forces and protesters to 49.

“We are living in a fragile democracy,” said Boluarte, who has refused to resign and failed in a bid to convince Congress to bring forward elections slated for 2026.

“I think it is the most fragile in Latin America, but it is within Peruvians, within us, to strengthen democracy,” Boluarte told reporters at a news conference alongside her Cabinet ministers.

Boluarte is Peru’s sixth president since March 2018 and the first woman to hold the role.

She was Castillo’s vice president before he was ousted and charged with rebellion.

Demonstrations against her rule have been fiercest in poor southern regions with large Indigenous populations who view Castillo as one of their own.

Among their other demands are the dissolution of Congress and the formation of a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, something roundly rejected by the right-wing opposition.

“In search of peace, I openly call all political leaders of every single party, but also the leaders of social and labor organizations, everyone in general so that we can meet and put the country’s agenda on the table,” Boluarte said.

Last December, Boluarte called on Congress to bring elections forward, but the legislature rejected the idea in five separate votes despite an initial vote in favor, which was subsequently never ratified.

During the news conference, Boluarte noted the latest protester killed, a 22-year-old who was shot last Thursday in Apurimac, the region where she herself was born.

“I am very sorry for the death of the citizen in Apurimac yesterday, in that confrontation in which an interprovincial transport bus was set on fire, the toll booth set on fire. My condolences from here to the family,” she said.

But she noted that some of the street protests rocking the nation “are not peaceful. They come out with sticks, slingshots, rocks, which are also projectiles that cause damage.”

“Not all are marching peacefully. They are coming out to generate violence, chaos and terror,” Boluarte said.

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