Thousands march on Peru’s capital as unrest spreads, building set ablaze

Thousands of protesters in Peru, many from the coun­try’s heavily indigenous south, descended on Lima, the capital, on Thursday, angered by a mounting death toll since unrest erupted last month and calling for sweeping change.

Police estimated the march at around 3,500 people, but others speculated it attracted more than double that.

Rows of police in riot gear faced off against rock-hurling protesters on some streets, and one historic building in the city’s historic center caught fire late on Thursday.

The building, on San Martin Plaza, was empty when the massive blaze ignited from unknown causes, a firefighter commander told local radio.

Canada-based miner Hud­bay said in a statement that protesters had entered the site of its Peru unit, damaging and burning key machinery and vehicles.

“This has not been a protest; this has been a sabotage of the rule of law,” Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said Thursday evening alongside President Dina Boluarte and other gov­ernment ministers.

Interior Minister Vicente Romero disputed claims circu­lating on social media that the Lima blaze had been caused by a police officer’s tear gas grenade.

Over the past month, rau­cous and sometimes deadly protests have led to the worst violence Peru has seen in more than two decades, as many in poorer, rural regions vent anger at the Lima establish­ment over inequality and rising prices, testing the copper-rich Andean nation’s democratic institutions.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluar­te, snap elections and a new constitution to replace the market-friendly one dating back to the days of right-wing strongman Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.

“We want the usurper Dina Boluarte to step down and call for new elections,” said pro­tester Jose De la Rosa, predict­ing the street protests would only continue.

The protests have been sparked by the dramatic Dec. 7 ouster of leftist former Pres­ident Pedro Castillo after he tried to illegally shutter Con­gress and consolidate power.

In buses and on foot, thou­sands journeyed to Lima on Thursday, carrying flags and banners blasting the govern­ment and police for deadly clashes in the southern cities of Ayacucho and Juliaca.

The unrest spread far be­yond the capital. —Reuters

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