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PERUVIAN indigenous rights groups held strikes and roadblocks today as protests at the coup that removed left-wing president Pedro Castillo continued to escalate.
Congress was due to debate holding early elections tonight — though this would mean bringing them forward to next year, not holding immediate votes as many protesters are demanding.
The left minority in the legislature last week tried to tie elections to a promised assembly to rewrite the constitution, something Mr Castillo’s government saw repeatedly blocked.
Clashes between the former president and Congress over these reforms led to his attempt to dissolve it, which resulted in his overthrow and arrest.
Caretaker President Dina Boluarte, who had been Mr Castillo’s deputy but backed the coup, told Congress it had no choice but to back an early election: “Don’t be blind. Look at the people and take action in line with what they are asking.”
But authorities have continued to put down protest violently.
The death toll rose to 26 yesterday after a demonstrator was shot on the Pan-American Highway in Chala district. He is believed to be a mine worker, among thousands who blocked that motorway.
A summit of regional governors held the same day said that the deaths of protesters had not been properly explained and called for proper investigation of police violence.
The Ayacucho People’s Defence Front said yesterday that strikes and roadblocks should continue until Ms Boluarte resigns and new elections are held, while the Unified Defence Front Against Contamination of the Coata Basin and Lake Titicaca, in Puno department, said it was deliberating whether to march on Lima.
As in many Latin American countries, the division between the left and right is racially charged, with the right’s opposition leader Keiko Fujimori the daughter of jailed dictator Alberto, whose administration carried out a forced sterilisation programme for indigenous women.
The new constitution Mr Castillo sought aimed at declaring Peru a “plurinational” state like Bolivia, with the rights of indigenous peoples formally recognised.
Peru’s coup authorities are backed by Joe Biden’s US administration but have been repeatedly denounced by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico.
On Monday the latter warned that unless Peru accepted the need for new elections its only course would be to stay in power through “force and repression.”
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