Peru’s new President Dina Bouluart proposed moving the general election date forward by two years to April 2024, during a televised address he made early Monday morning, amid ongoing protests across the country.
“Interpreting the will of the citizens… I have decided to take the initiative to reach an agreement with the Congress of the Republic to push the general elections to the month of April 2024,” Boulwart said in the televised address.
Boulwart became Peru’s first female president last week after lawmakers impeached her predecessor, Pedro Castillo.
It initially ruled out snap elections last week, but protests calling for political change followed across the country, killing at least two people and prompting the UN human rights office to express concern about escalating tensions.
“With violence increasing as protests continue in Peru, we are deeply concerned that the situation could escalate further,” said spokeswoman Marta Hurtado. “Given the number of protests, including strikes, planned this week, we call on all participants to exercise restraint.”
Since last week, protests have broken out in cities across the country in support of Castillo, who is currently under preliminary detention for seven days by order of the Peruvian Supreme Court and has not accepted his removal, calling Pouluart a “rapist”.
The demonstrators demanded another general election, the dissolution of Congress, and the creation of a new Constituent Assembly, according to Radio Programas del Perú, a radio and television broadcaster.
On Saturday, protesters also demonstrated in the city of Andahuailas, injuring at least 20 people including four police officers, according to the Office of the Peruvian Ombudsman.
Peru’s health ministry said Sunday evening that two people had died and three had been hospitalized in the Apurimac region, where Andahuaylas province is located, as a result of the protests.
Castillo insisted on Monday that he was still the president of Peru, according to a series of tweets posted to his Twitter account. He was accused of trying to dissolve the National Congress and call for new elections.
Part of the letter read: “I am unconditionally loyal to the popular and constitutional mandate that I hold as President, and I will not resign or give up my high and sacred offices.”
Castillo also alleged he was “kidnapped,” “humiliated,” and “abused,” and called for his release, according to a handwritten letter also posted to his account on Monday.
Castillo’s attorney, Ronald Atensio, verified the authenticity of the letter and tweet to CNN. The former president authorized the writing of the tweets on his behalf.
Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón Airport in Arequipa, Peru’s largest city, was temporarily closed Monday due to protests, according to a statement from Peru’s Andean Airports, released by the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.
“Alfredo Rodríguez Ballon Airport in the city of Arequipa was stormed by a group of protesters who entered through the border fence, destroyed the security infrastructure and set fire to the security gate, putting the safety of passengers, our team and air operations at risk,” the statement read.
Pictures of the scene showed smoke from a distance as protesters walked on the tarmac.
The airport evacuated those inside the terminal, and later on Monday, officials told local media that the situation was “under control”.
The situation in Arequipa is under control, and the police are in control of the airport (from the inside). We ask citizens to exercise their right to protest but in a peaceful way and not to endanger people’s lives, said Angel Manrique of the Arequipa Ombudsman’s Office in an interview with RPP Local Radio on Monday.
In footage from the southern city of Ica, a car overturned and protesters blocked streets. Police were seen clashing with demonstrators who were throwing stones at the forces.
On Sunday, at least 50 people, including police officers and airport workers, were taken “hostage” after attacks and “acts of vandalism” by protesters at Huancapamba de Andahuaylas Airport in the city of Andahuaylas, the Peruvian Airports Corporation and Commercial Airline said in a statement.
The airport was closed as a result, the organization said, adding that it had asked the national police to support, reinforce and help “protect the lives of people being held hostage”. The organization did not provide information on the situation of the hostages.
Peru’s Airports and Commercial Aviation Authority said in a statement that the protesters were accused of setting fire to the airport’s transport room, fuel room, and cordoning off the terminal with “violent acts.” It also said that the landing strip and essential equipment were “severely damaged”.
The country has been on edge since Castillo’s ouster last week.
Many Peruvians have called for a changing of the political guard, according to a September poll by the Institute for Peruvian Studies (IEP), which found that 60% of those polled supported snap elections to modernize the presidency and Congress.
Pouluart’s ascension to the presidency may not necessarily ease Peru’s toxic and bitter political landscape.
Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), told CNN that Boulwart “has no recognized political career. Without party support, political party or social organization behind it, it is weak from the start.”
He said, “Everyone knows when Dina Poulwart’s government began, but no one can be sure how long it will last.”