‘Pattern of repression’: US Democrats call to suspend Peru aid
A group of Democrats in the United States House of Representatives has urged the Biden administration to suspend all security assistance to Peru over a “pattern of repression” against antigovernment protests that has resulted in more than 50 civilian deaths.
Their letter, a copy of which was shared with The Associated Press news agency, asked the Biden administration on Monday to halt its security assistance until the government can confirm that the crackdown in Peru has ended and the Peruvian officials responsible for human rights abuses are being held accountable.
Peru’s foreign minister is in Washington, DC, this week seeking international support for President Dina Boluarte’s increasingly besieged government. Pressure has been mounting on Boluarte, formerly the vice president under ex-President Pedro Castillo, to resign the post she inherited last month when Castillo was impeached and arrested for his ill-fated attempt to close Peru’s Congress.
“Security forces have indiscriminately responded with almost no regard for protestors’ human rights,” according to the letter, which was signed by 20 mostly progressive House Democrats. “Rather than working to deescalate tensions, the Boluarte government has substantially increased tensions — including classifying protesters as ‘terrorists’ and limiting citizens’ right of movement.”
The US provides more than $40m annually to Peru in security assistance, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, a research nonprofit. The vast majority is aimed at helping Peru counter drug trafficking.
While protesters were initially demanding Castillo’s release from jail, the unrest has spread across the country, galvanising the support of many poor, Indigenous Peruvians who have benefitted little from Peru’s mining-driven economic boom.
Protesters demand that both Boluarte and Congress stand down and that new elections be held this year. Legislators rejected that on Friday. But after another protester died and Boluarte urged them to reconsider, Congress narrowly agreed on Monday to debate a proposal to hold elections in October, with 66 votes in favour, 49 opposed and six abstentions.
Meanwhile, as the protests stretch into their second month, beleaguered security forces have become more forceful.
Among the incidents cited in the letter, organised by Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, was the national police raid on student dormitories at San Marcos University in Lima, which included the mass arrest of nearly 200 people. That shocked many Peruvians because campuses have long been off-limits to security forces except when crimes are being committed.
The campus invasion drew sharp condemnation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which said it collected testimony from civil society groups who alleged law enforcement officers invaded the bedrooms of student leaders, slung racist remarks at Indigenous activists, and forced women to strip naked and do squats.