At least two people have been killed in Peru after clashes between police and demonstrators demanding new elections and the release of former President Pedro Castillo.
Sunday’s death came as protests over Castillo’s removal and arrest widened across Peru, including northern and Andean cities.
The announcement was preceded by President Dina Boulwart, the country’s vice president who was quickly sworn in to replace Castillo last week.
“I have decided to introduce a bill to reach an agreement with Congress to advance the general election date to April 2024,” Bulwart said in an address to the nation early Monday, adding that she would introduce legislation in the “coming days.” .
Lawmakers removed Castillo, a former teacher and union leader, from office on Wednesday after he tried to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote. The former president was arrested soon after and charged by prosecutors with insurrection and conspiracy.
Protests quickly erupted across the country, with many supporters of the detained former leader demanding elections in Peru rather than allowing Polarte to remain in power until Castillo’s term ends in 2026.
Some protesters have also called for a shutdown of Congress.
It was not immediately clear if Poulwart’s announcement would calm the unrest.
On Sunday, protests were reported in cities within Peru, including Cajamarca, Arequipa, Huancayo, Cusco and Puno.
Authorities said clashes broke out in Andahuaylas, in the Apurimac region, as protesters tried to storm the city’s southern airport. Footage from the scene broadcast on local television showed protesters throwing slingshots and throwing stones as police responded with tear gas.
Eliana Revollar, head of the Office of the Peruvian Ombudsman, told a radio station that two young men, aged 15 and 18, had died in the clashes “possibly from gunshot wounds”.
Baltazar Lantarón, governor of the Apurimac region, told local TV channel Canal that “four injuries were reported and they were treated at the health centre, three of them. [with wounds] For the scalp, with multiple infections.
Hundreds of people also held protests at the Legislative Palace in Lima, Peru, where riot police used tear gas to disperse crowds.
Inside the palace, Congress called an emergency session to discuss the crisis, but it was suspended after physical altercations broke out. In photos posted on social media, a man can be seen punching another man from behind and the members push each other in the center of the room.
Prime Minister Pedro Angulo said the newly appointed government headed by Poulwart will also meet on Sunday evening to assess the civil unrest and decide how to respond.
Meanwhile, unions and rural organizations representing the indigenous population have called for an “unlimited strike” from Tuesday in support of Castillo, himself the son of a peasant family. The Peruvian Agricultural and Rural Front manifesto demanded Castillo’s immediate release as well as the suspension of Congress, early elections and a new constitution.
The demands for new elections come as recent polls show that nearly nine in 10 Peruvians disapprove of the country’s legislature.
Peru is now in its sixth head of state since 2016.
The struggle for power continues in the country as the Andean region and its thousands of small holdings struggle to survive the worst drought in half a century.
The country of more than 33 million people is also experiencing a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, with nearly 4.3 million cases and 217,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.