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Group of Democrats calls on Biden to stop Peru assistance over deadly crackdown

The letter, signed by 20 mostly progressive Democrats, also urges Biden to publicly denounce the human rights situation in Peru. Over 50 civilians have been killed.
An anti-government protester charges police with a club during clashes in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 19. Martin Mejia / AP

A group of House Democrats wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to halt security assistance to the government of Peru and denounce human rights violations reportedly committed by state security forces.

The letter, signed by 20 mostly progressive Democrats, argues the funding should resume only when the administration confirms to members of Congress that the repression has ended and that effective steps have been taken to ensure justice and accountability.

A crackdown on anti-government protesters has resulted in over 50 civilian deaths and numerous reports of abuse.

“In light of the worsening political and human rights situation, we implore you to publicly denounce these ongoing human rights violations and apply pressure on the Peruvian government to uphold the rights to peaceful protest and due process,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by many progressive Latino members of Congress, including Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García, Raúl Grijalva, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Juan Vargas, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Nydia Velázquez and Delia Ramirez.

An anti-government protester challenges police surrounding San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, on Jan. 21, 2023. Image:
An anti-government protester challenges police surrounding San Marcos University in Lima on Jan. 21. Martin Mejia / AP

The letter from the members of Congress described a raid on student dormitories at San Marcos University, in Lima, where “violations of due process and the use of disproportionate force” took place.

“While we recognize that a small number of protestors have participated in violent acts, the Boluarte government has a responsibility to distinguish criminals from peaceful protestors and to protect those participating lawfully,” the letter reads.

“Instead, security forces have indiscriminately responded with almost no regard for protestors’ human rights. 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 letter goes on to say.

The South American country of about 34 million has been roiled in unrest since the ouster and arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo in December after he illegally tried to shutter Congress in order to avoid impeachment. His vice president, Dina Boluarte, ascended to the presidency.

The effects of the pandemic worsened the economic situation and access to basic services for those outside the capital, Lima.

Castillo, the son of peasant farmers and a former teacher, had pledged during his campaign to help the rural poor and Indigenous groups, who are often unrepresented in Peruvian politics. The arrest of Castillo outraged many and led to nationwide protests that have morphed into demonstrations against disenfranchisement.

Boluarte has responded with a crackdown on protesters, imposing curfews in some cities, and suspending some civil liberties.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluarte and Congress and want elections to be held this year. Congress narrowly agreed to debate a proposal to hold elections in October, after initially rejecting it Friday.