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After weeks of violence, protests expected to continue in Peru

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More than 40 people have now been killed in protests in Peru, with the death count rising notably in the last week. Protesters demand the resignation of the current president, Dina Boluarte. She has apologized for the violence but declared that she is not stepping down. These protests started after the previous president, Pedro Castillo, was forced out of office back in December. And in response to the most recent protests, Peru's government has just extended its state of emergency another 30 days, meaning security forces will continue to operate under special authority.

Here with us now from Lima is Marcelo Rochabrun. He's the Peru bureau chief for Bloomberg. Welcome.

MARCELO ROCHABRUN: Hi. Thank you for having me.

CHANG: Thank you for being with us. So where exactly are these latest protests happening right now?

ROCHABRUN: So Peru has seen what is basically its worst violence in decades. And really, the protests have been centering in what is Peru's poorest regions. It's the rural Andes, particularly in the south. And what we've seen there is in multiple cities - just thousands and thousands of people have been taking to the streets. They've been blocking roads. We're talking about 100 highways at this point. And the protests have also taken another trend, which is protesters have been trying to take over the airports in their cities. And that is specifically where we've seen the worst violence.

CHANG: Well, help me understand something because I know that many of Pedro Castillo, the ousted president - many of his supporters are calling for Boluarte to resign. And Boluarte was the running mate and vice president of Castillo. Why are they calling for her to resign?

ROCHABRUN: Yeah, it's a complicated issue, and I don't think anyone has a straight answer on that one. But what we know is that the people supporting Boluarte now are the opposite of the people who were supporting Castillo when Castillo was president. So Castillo won with an overwhelming support from the rural south. And now what we've seen with the latest polls is that Boluarte's biggest support is coming from Lima. And we've seen her making alliances with conservative blocs in Congress that have supported her new Cabinet, have supported her, called for new elections in April of 2024. So Boluarte is going to step down in just over a year, but protesters are asking for her to step down immediately.

CHANG: Well, if we're seeing that these protests are largely driven by lower-income people, especially Indigenous people, what do you think that tells us about social class in this country?

ROCHABRUN: Right. There is a big disconnect between what is happening in the wealthier, whiter Lima and what we are seeing in Andean regions. And that is exactly the same split that we saw in the election. The people who were encouraged by Castillo's election and who thought that they were going to gain a voice with Castillo - which doesn't mean that they actually got what they hoped for while Castillo as president - they are once again disillusioned by the state of affairs.

CHANG: Well, if Boluarte, for the moment, is pledging to stay in office and these protesters are still blocking roads all around the country, I mean, is there any resolution in sight in the near future at all?

ROCHABRUN: We really do not know what is going to happen in the next few days or the next few weeks. The latest developments is that people are coming to Lima to protest. It is unclear exactly how many people are going to come. But the government has said that it will not allow Lima to be taken over.

CHANG: Marcelo Rochabrun, Peru bureau chief for Bloomberg. Thank you very much for joining us and enlightening us about what's happening right now.

ROCHABRUN: No, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Alejandra Marquez Janse