Report from Amnesty International: Violence must stop, authorities urged in Peru

Amnesty International emphasises that to end the protests that have shaken the nation for several months; the Peruvian government must reverse direction and stop using “excessive and lethal” force.

The human rights organisation issues a new report in which it issues a warning that the abuses discovered by its investigators may ultimately result in legal repercussions for state officials, including those “at the highest level.”

The primary target of the warning is President Dina Boluarte, who this week tried to clear herself by claiming that she had never approved the use of fatal force against Peruvians who were adamantly calling for her to resign and new elections for the legislature and presidency.

Her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, was overthrown and imprisoned for attempting to dissolve Congress in a move that his detractors saw as a coup attempt. She assumed control in December.

A vigorous police response to the sudden outbreak of protests across the nation resulted in an estimated fifty deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Amnesty International identified 12 examples of gunshot deaths after looking into 46 potential cases of human rights violations.

The organisation emphasised that “all the victims had gunshot wounds to the chest, torso, or head, which could indicate in certain cases an intended use of fatal force,” referring to potential instances of “extrajudicial executions.”

Jhonatan Erik Enciso Arias, an 18-year-old student, was fatally shot while watching a demonstration from the top of a hill. He then used “no violence” against police officers stationed on a nearby structure’s roof.

According to Amnesty International, the violence appears to have primarily targeted the “Indigenous and peasant communities,” which are crucial to the demonstrations and suggest a sort of institutional racism.

Environment of impunity

The organisation claims that the current state of affairs is made worse by how slowly judicial officials look into claims of human rights violations to determine who the perpetrators are.
According to Marina Navarro, executive director of Amnesty International Peru, “delaying and disregarding this vital job leads to fostering an environment of impunity that only perpetuates such atrocities.”

According to Stéphanie Rousseau, a political science professor affiliated with Lima’s Catholic University of Peru, the abuses reported by the group are expected further to damage Dina Boluarte’s reputation with the general public.

The former vice president maintains that she is sympathetic to the demonstrators’ requests for new elections while refusing to step down.

As time goes on, it becomes increasingly evident that his game is primarily one of personal survival, according to Mme Rousseau.

The elected members of Congress who oppose having early elections in 2023 are just as “opportunistic” and prioritise protecting their interests over acting in a way that would advance the crisis’ unblocking.

“Catastrophic” legacy

Initially, many protesters sought Pedro Castillo’s reinstatement to his position. The return to the polls, which is now the top concern, makes these calls less urgent, according to Mme Rousseau.

According to Mr Castillo, the professor left the nation with a “catastrophic” legacy. The presidency of the former teacher and unionist, who needed more prior political experience, has been dogged by numerous corruption charges and an ill-advised string of failed appointments.

Nonetheless, his humble beginnings helped to ensure his appeal to a segment of the disadvantaged community who could relate to him.

The professor observes that the resistance of Keiko Fujimori’s party, led by her father, former dictator Alberto Fujimori, hindered her mission as soon as she came into power.

The politician first attempted to challenge the outcome of the presidential election by asserting that her rival had benefited from a rigged vote, sparking a crisis that greatly exacerbated the nation’s divisiveness.

According to Mme. Rousseau, conducting fresh elections is still the only option to restore Peru’s peace quickly.

The emergence of candidates who are likely to come to an agreement and create the groundwork for a stable government appears to be “on the order of a miracle”, given the current situation, so there is no assurance that the pause will remain.

In 2020, the issues with the Peruvian political system helped to hasten the selection of three presidents. Before Pedro Castillo’s election in 2021, Francisco Sagasti, a renowned thinker, served as president.

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