The declaration suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of movement and empowers the police, supported by Peru’s military, to search people’s homes without permission or judicial order. Otarola said it has not determined whether a curfew will be imposed. He estimated the total number of people “causing this disturbance” at no more than 8,000 nationwide.
The defense minister said the declaration was agreed to by the council of ministers. It didn’t mention Peru’s new president, Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in by Congress hours after lawmakers ousted Castillo.
Boluarte pleaded for calm as demonstrations continue against her and the Congress that ousted her predecessor.
“Peru cannot overflow with blood,” she said earlier Wednesday. Answering demands for immediate elections, she suggested they could be held a year from now, four months before her earlier proposal, which placated no one.
Boluarte floated the possibility of sheduling general elections for December 2023 to reporters, just before a hearing to determine whether Castillo will remain jailed for 18 months while authorities build a rebellion case against him. The judge then postponed the hearing after Castillo refused to participate.
“The only thing I can tell you sisters and brothers (is) to keep calm,” Boluarte said. “We have already lived through this experience in the 80s and 90s, and I believe that we do not want to return to that painful history.”
The remarks of Castillo’s running mate, installed by Congress just a week ago to replace him, recalled the ruinous years when the Shining Path insurgency presided over numerous car bombings and assassinations. The group was blamed for more than half of the nearly 70,000 estimated deaths and disappearances, caused by various rebel groups and a brutal government counterinsurgency response.
Protesters have blocked streets in Peru’s capital and many rural communities, demanding Castillo’s freedom, Boluarte’s resignation and the immediate scheduling of general elections to pick a new president and replace all members of Congress. At least seven people have been killed, including a teenager who died Wednesday after being injured during protests in Andahuaylas, a hospital director said.
All perished in the same kinds of impoverished communities whose voters propelled the rural teachers union leader to victory last year after he promised a populist approach to governing.
Castillo was ousted by lawmakers on Dec. 7 when he sought to dissolve Congress ahead of their third attempt to impeach him. His vehicle was intercepted as he traveled through Lima’s streets with his security detail. Prosecutors accused him of trying to seek political asylum at Mexico’s embassy.
In a handwritten letter shared Wednesday with The Associated Press by his associate Mauro Gonzales, Castillo asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intercede for his “rights and the rights of my Peruvian brothers who cry out for justice.” The commission investigates allegations of human rights violations and litigates them in some cases.
In the last week, protesters have burned police stations, taken over an airstrip used by the armed forces and invaded the runway of the international airport in Arequipa, a gateway to some of Peru’s tourist attractions. The passenger train that carries visitors to Machu Picchu suspended service, and roadblocks on the Pan-American Highway have stranded trailer trucks for days, spoiling food bound for the capital.
By Wednesday, members of the armed forces had already been deployed to Arequipa and other areas outside Lima. Securing rural areas far from the capital could take longer.
Five of the deaths have been in Andahuaylas, an Andean community whose impoverished residents have long felt abandoned by the government and occasionally rebelled against it. College student Luis Torres joined a protest of about 2,000 people there Wednesday as a few white vans carrying soldiers moved through the streets.
“This measure is disproportionate. It shows the political precariousness of the government that Mrs. Dina Boluarte is having now,” Torres said. “We are all marching peacefully, for something fair that we are demanding. At least Andahuaylas will continue to fight.”
Associated Press writer Franklin Briceño contributed to this report from Andahuaylas, Peru.