Peruvians march south of Juliaca to mourn 19 dead
By Alexander Villegas
JULIACA, Peru (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched through Juliaca in southern Peru on Thursday to commemorate the month-old anniversary of clashes that killed 19 people in the city, the worst violence in over two months of anti-government protests.
Family members and protesters gathered under an overpass for a memorial to the victims after marching past concrete roadblocks still riddled with bullet holes and the shuttered airport guarded by soldiers and police.
The city in the Andean region of Puno has been rocked by protests since leftist President Pedro Castillo was overthrown on December 7. Clashes on January 9 killed 18 people, including a police officer. Another protester died days later.
The violence was the deadliest day in the protests, which represent themselves the worst unrest in Peru in over 20 years, posing an immense challenge to the new government in Lima and threatening world-class mining operations. 2 copper producer.
On Thursday, as families mourned the deaths, some protesters in other cities joined calls for a broader nationwide strike. Occasionally military planes flew overhead as the ceremony commemorating the victims took place.
“The Puno region has really supported us, we are not one, we are many,” said Ruth Meza, who said her classmate Elmer Solano was killed in the Juliaca clashes.
Peru’s southern Andes, the focal point of the protests, is home to the famous Inca ruined city of Machu Picchu and vast copper deposits, but lags behind much of the country in terms of education, health and income.
The imprisoned Castillo, a former teacher and union leader, continues to have the support of many of these communities, who are demanding a constitutional amendment and an overhaul of Congress, and his release.
MASS FOR PROTEST DEAD
Luis Zambrano, a priest who led a mass for family members on Wednesday, said that while protesters were sometimes violent, he felt the authorities were responding with too much violence.
“They didn’t come to calm the waters,” he said.
During Zambrano Mass, a display table filled with photos of those who died in the protests and had to be rearranged as more family members arrived and crowds poured out of the church.
Family members of those killed met with lawyers and the local ombudsman after the mass. They said they wanted justice from a government that had done little to help them.
Nivardo Enriquez, the ombudsman, said his office is working with local prosecutors to provide evidence, witness statements and autopsy reports.
“[The prosecution]is doing their job,” Enriquez said. “And we hope that it will be done with the appropriate speed.”
Dionisio Aroquipa told Reuters his 17-year-old daughter Jhamileth Nataly was killed in the protests. Reuters could not immediately confirm the details of his account.
“Those who protested were caught, they were investigated. But for the dead? There is practically no justice,” Aroquipa said.
He said his daughter, a psychology student in Bolivia, had volunteered with an animal rights organization and was hoping to travel to Brazil and Argentina.
“She had dreams,” Aroquipa said. “But when it comes to investigating what happened to my daughter, you don’t see any progress.”
(Reporting by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)