Peru Struggles With 'Nationwide Chaos' As Protests Spread

The agitation came again after thousands of protesters descended on the city earlier this week calling for change and angered by the protests' mounting death toll, which rose to 45.

Peru Struggles With 'Nationwide Chaos' As Protests Spread
Firefighters in Peru after a major fire in nation's capital Lima (Image Credits-Reuters)

TENSIONS flared again in Peru on Friday night as police clashed with protesters in the nation's capital Lima in anti-government demonstrations spreading across the country. Police officers used tear gas to repel demonstrators throwing glass bottles and stones, as fires burned in the streets, local TV footage showed.

The unrest paused for a short-lived respite on Friday after clashes between protesters and police on Thursday night.

Residents awoke on Friday morning to find one of the city's most historic buildings burnt to the ground during a night of tumult, as the president vowed to get tougher on "vandals."

Officials described the destruction of the building, a near-century-old mansion in central Lima, as the loss of a "monumental asset." Authorities are investigating the causes.

It came after thousands of protesters descended on the city earlier this week calling for change and angered by the protests' mounting death toll, which rose to 45 on Thursday.

Protests have rocked Peru since President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December after he attempted to dissolve the legislature to prevent an impeachment vote.

The unrest has until this week been concentrated in Peru's south. In the Cusco region, Glencore's (GLEN.L) major Antapaccay copper mine suspended operations on Friday after protesters attacked the premises - one of the largest in the country - for the third time this month.

Airports in Arequipa, Cusco and the southern city of Juliaca were also attacked by demonstrators this week, delivering a fresh blow to Peru's tourism industry.

"It's nationwide chaos, you can't live like this. We are in a terrible uncertainty -- the economy, vandalism," said Lima resident Leonardo Rojas. The government has extended a state of emergency to six regions, curtailing some civil rights.

But President Dina Boluarte has dismissed calls for her to resign and hold snap elections, instead calling for dialogue and promising to punish those involved in the unrest.

"All the rigour of the law will fall on those who have acted with vandalism," Boluarte said Thursday.

Some locals pointed the finger at Boluarte for "not taking any action" to quell the protests, which began on Dec. 7 in response to the ouster and arrest of Castillo.

Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms. The police say protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.

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