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Thousands of anti-government protesters in Peru call for the president's resignation

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

But first, to Peru which is bracing for a fresh wave of protests in the coming days. Thousands of demonstrators have started converging on towns and cities across the country calling for President Dina Boluarte's resignation and the dissolution of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Non-English language spoken).

FLORIDO: Police have called reinforcements into the capital in what's being called the, quote, "third takeover of Lima." This follows months of unrest that started after the previous president was removed from office last year - unrest in which a number of people died during violent clashes with police. We're joined by journalist Simeon Tegel in Lima. Hi, Simeon.

SIMEON TEGEL: Hi.

FLORIDO: We mentioned removal of the president last year, but Peru has seen seven presidents in as many years. What is at the core of all this?

TEGEL: I think it's a combination of factors. One is the rampant corruption in Peru's political system, including at the highest levels - Congress, the cabinet, the presidency - with many senior political figures basically lining their pockets rather than serving the interests of the people. And it's a combination of that with really the deep inequalities and injustices in Peruvian society. Many of the people marching today lack all kinds of basic services, whether it's running water or electricity or decent education for their kids.

So the ouster of Pedro Castillo last December - it was the spark, I think, that kind of set this all off. But really, the kindling, the firewood was really this historical combination of marginalization, inequality and then a corrupt political system that's refusing to address ordinary Peruvians', especially poor Peruvians', basic needs.

FLORIDO: You are in the capital, Lima, I understand, and have been speaking with protesters there. What are they demanding?

TEGEL: So some are demanding the reinstatement of Pedro Castillo, the president who attempted to dissolve Congress and the courts and rule by decree last December. That's not going to happen. Some want a new constitution, which they feel will address the injustice in - injustices and inequalities in Peruvian society. Possibly that might happen at some point in the future.

But the one thing that all the protesters agree on, and something like 8 out of 10 Peruvians, is that they want President Dina Boluarte to resign. By doing so, she would automatically trigger a new general election. Right now, her approval rating is 12%. Congress' approval rating is 6%. And most Peruvians are just fed up with both and want to see the back of them.

FLORIDO: I don't imagine that the president is taking kindly to this demand that she resign or to these protests in general.

TEGEL: No, not at all. Yesterday, President Boluarte described the protests as a threat to democracy. Let's hear what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DINA BOLUARTE: (Speaking Spanish).

TEGEL: So there she's accusing the protesters of raising the flag of war, and she says she doesn't understand what their demands are. I think that's ironic given that the demands could probably be summed up in a single word - resign - but also because most Peruvians and much of the international community - everyone from the European Union to Amnesty International - regards her government as having increasingly authoritarian tendencies and having used excessive force to repress the protests last December and January, including using live ammunition to kill 48 Peruvians, some of whom weren't even protestors. And the government is now really slow-marching investigations into those human rights violations.

FLORIDO: I have been speaking with Simeon Tegel in Lima, Peru. Thanks very much.

TEGEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Tara Neill
Tara Neill is the Deputy international Editor and also covers Africa and Latin America on the International desk.
Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.