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Peru top prosecutor launches inquiry into president after deadliest day of protests

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LIMA (Reuters) -Peru’s top prosecutor’s office on Tuesday said it launched an inquiry into new President Dina Boluarte and members of her cabinet over violent clashes that have seen at least 40 killed and hundreds injured since early December.


FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators clash with security forces during a protest demanding early elections and the release of jailed former President Pedro Castillo, near the Juliaca airport, in Juliaca, Peru January 9, 2023. REUTERS/Hugo Courotto NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

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

The attorney general’s office said it was investigating Boluarte along with Prime Minister Alberto Otarola, Defense Minister Jorge Chavez and Interior Minister Victor Rojas on charges of “genocide, qualified homicide and serious injuries.”

Human rights groups have accused authorities of using firearms on protesters and dropping smoke bombs from helicopters. The army says protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.

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

The ouster of Castillo, which came after he illegally attempted to dissolve Congress, has ignited a wave of protests across the country. Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluarte, the dissolution of Congress, changes to the constitution and Castillo’s release.

Lawmakers on Tuesday were set to cast their ballots in a vote of confidence in Boluarte’s cabinet, which is needed to lead a new government.

Prime Minister Alberto Otarola has blamed organized attackers financed by “dark” money for those killed on Monday. Another 68 civilians and 75 police officers were reported injured, according to the ombudsman.

Otarola also announced a three-day overnight curfew in Puno, aimed at quelling the violence. Footage from local media showed looting of Puno businesses on Monday night, while Juliaca’s airport remained shut on Tuesday after 9,000 people were said to have attempted to invade the premises.

In a statement on Tuesday, Peru’s ombudsman office urged peaceful protests as well as for prosecutors to fully investigate the deaths.

The office noted the “extreme violence” of the policeman’s death, claiming he was tortured before he died, while also condemning an arson attack on a Puno congressman’s residence in the city of Ilave with family members still inside.

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