Genocide investigation launched against Peru’s president after protest deaths | Peru

Genocide investigation launched against Peru’s president after protest deaths | Peru

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Peru’s attorney general’s office said it has opened an investigation into new President Dina Bolwarte and members of her cabinet to investigate allegations of genocide after violent clashes that have left at least 40 dead and hundreds injured since early December.

However, the new government won a vote of confidence in Congress by a wide margin on Tuesday night. A loss would trigger a cabinet reshuffle and the resignation of Prime Minister Alberto Otarola.

The inquiry comes next 17 civilians were killed in the country’s southern Puno region on Monday – the deadliest day of protests since former President Pedro Castillo was ousted and detained last month. The violence continued on Tuesday, with a police officer killed after his car was set on fire.

The attorney general’s office said Tuesday it was investigating Boluarte, Otarola, Defense Minister Jorge Chavez and Interior Minister Victor Rojas on charges of “genocide, qualified murder and grievous bodily harm.”

Human rights groups have accused authorities of using firearms against protesters and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The army says the protesters used weapons and improvised explosive devices.

The attorney general’s office also said it would investigate former prime minister Pedro Angulo and former interior minister Cesar Cervantes, both of whom served under Boluarte for just a few weeks, for their involvement in handling the protests.

The offices of the president and ministers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Castillo’s ouster, which came after he illegally tried to dissolve Congress, sparked a wave of protests across the country. The protesters are demanding Bolwarte’s resignation, the dissolution of Congress, constitutional changes and Castillo’s release.

The vote of confidence, a constitutional requirement after the inauguration of a new prime minister, was passed with 73 votes in favour, 43 against and 6 abstentions.

Otarola blamed organized attackers funded by “dark” money for Monday’s killings. Another 68 civilians and 75 police officers were reported injured.

Otarola also announced a three-day curfew in Puno aimed at quelling the violence. Local media footage showed looting of businesses in Puno on Monday night, while the airport in the regional city of Juliaca remained closed on Tuesday after 9,000 people were said to have tried to storm the premises.

Peru’s ombudsman office on Tuesday called for peaceful protests as well as a full prosecutorial investigation into the death.

The office noted the “extreme violence” in the officer’s death, claiming he was tortured before he died. The policeman, identified as Jose Luis Sonko, died in a burning car after what Senior Police Commander Raul Alfaro called an “ambush” by a mob in Juliaca.

“They burned him alive,” Alfaro said.

The ombudsman’s office also condemned the arson of a Puno congressman’s residence in the town of Ilawe with family members still inside and called on authorities to respect international norms regarding the use of force.

Castillo tweeted on Tuesday that those killed to “protect the country from the overthrown dictatorship” would never be forgotten.

He has been ordered to remain in remand custody while he is investigated for incitement to riot, a charge he denies. The former village teacher, who served less than two years of his five-year term before his removal, says he remains Peru’s rightful president.

Castillo’s ally Evo Morales, the former Bolivian president who was barred from entering Peru on Monday, also called for an end to what he said was “the genocide of our indigenous brothers”.

Later this week, a mission from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will visit Peru to assess the situation. Meanwhile, the UN has called for respect for human rights and offered to mediate the crisis.

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