By Marco Achino
LIMA (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Peru’s chief prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday it had launched an investigation into new president Dina Boluarte and members of her cabinet over violent clashes that have left at least 40 dead and hundreds injured since the start. of December.
The new government, however, won a vote of confidence in Congress by a large margin on Tuesday evening. A loss would have triggered a cabinet reshuffle and the resignation of Prime Minister Alberto Otarola.
The investigation comes after 17 civilians were killed in the southern region of Puno on Monday, the deadliest day of protests since former President Pedro Castillo was ousted and arrested last month. The violence continued on Tuesday with a police officer dying after his car was set on fire.
The attorney general’s office said 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 the authorities of using firearms on protesters and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The army says the protesters used weapons and homemade explosives.
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 only 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 occurred after he illegally tried to dissolve Congress, sparked a wave of protests across the country. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluarte, the dissolution of Congress, changes to the constitution and the release of Castillo.
The vote of confidence, a constitutional requirement following the inauguration of a new prime minister, passed with 73 votes in favour, 43 against and 6 abstentions.
Otarola blamed organized attackers financed with “dark” money for those killed on Monday. Another 68 civilians and 75 police officers were injured.
Otarola also announced a three-day nighttime curfew in Puno, aimed at quelling the violence. Local media footage showed Puno businesses looted on Monday night, while the airport in the region’s town of Juliaca remained closed on Tuesday after 9,000 people reportedly attempted to invade the premises.
Peru’s ombudsman’s office on Tuesday urged peaceful protests and that prosecutors thoroughly investigate the deaths.
The bureau noted the “extreme violence” of the policeman’s death, claiming he was tortured before he died. The officer, identified as Jose Luis Soncco, had died in a burning vehicle 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 an arson attack on a Puno congressman’s residence in the city of Ilave with family members still inside and called on authorities to comply with international standards regarding the use of force .
Castillo tweeted on Tuesday that those killed for “defending the country against a coup dictatorship” will never be forgotten.
He has been ordered to remain in custody while he is investigated for inciting rebellion, a charge he denies. The former rural teacher who served less than two years of his five-year mandate before his removal claims he is the rightful president of Peru.
Castillo ally Evo Morales, the former Bolivian president who was barred from entering Peru on Monday, has also called for an end to what he calls 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 United Nations has urged respect for human rights and has offered to mediate in the crisis.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Additional reporting by Carolina Pulice; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Alistair Bell, Bill Berkrot and Edwina Gibbs)