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Deadliest day of Peru's anti-government protests leaves 17 dead

At least 17 people were killed in anti-government protests near the airport in Juliaca in southern Peru. Monday's violence was the deadliest day in ongoing protests near the airport that have brought the death toll to at least 46. Protesters are calling for the closure of the Peruvian Congress and the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. Photo by Jose Sotomayor/EPA-EFE/
1 of 4 | At least 17 people were killed in anti-government protests near the airport in Juliaca in southern Peru. Monday's violence was the deadliest day in ongoing protests near the airport that have brought the death toll to at least 46. Protesters are calling for the closure of the Peruvian Congress and the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. Photo by Jose Sotomayor/EPA-EFE/

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- At least 17 more protesters were killed by security forces in Peru in the country's deadliest day since last month's arrest of former President Pedro Castillo.

The latest anti-government violence Monday, between protesters and security forces, took place near the airport in the city of Juliaca in the southern region of Puno. The protesters are calling for President Dina Boluarte to resign and Castillo, who had promised to resolve poverty and inequality in the country, to be freed from jail.

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Monday's demonstrations started peacefully, but turned violent when about 9,000 protesters tried to take control of the airport, according to Peru's interior minister Victor Rojas who said the security forces acted legally to defend themselves.

"What happened yesterday was really a massacre," Jennie Dador, executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinator of Peru, countered as she blamed security forces for the deaths. "These were extrajudicial killings."

Monday's anti-government violence brings the death toll to at least 46, as Peru blamed foreign interests for fueling the conflict and banned Bolivia's former President Evo Morales from entering the country. Morales has denounced Castillo's arrest as illegal.

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Peru's new government, led by Boluarte, accused Morales and eight other Bolivians of carrying out political activities that violate the country's immigration laws.

Other left-wing governments, including Mexico, Argentina and Colombia have also called for Castillo to be freed. Last month, Peru expelled Mexico's ambassador after the country granted asylum to the ousted president's family.

"After expelling the ambassador of Mexico for defending the life of the president and his family, the right wing of Peru prohibits us from entering that sister country for talking about the Constituent Assembly and asking them to stop the genocide of our indigenous brothers," Morales tweeted Monday.

While Boluarte has refused repeated calls to resign, education minister Patricia Correa and culture minister Jair Perez announced their resignations last month citing the rising death toll.

Castillo, 53, was impeached and arrested on Dec. 7, hours after he tried to dissolve Peru's Congress, triggering deadly national protests. Peruvian armed forces called Castillo's effort to dissolve Congress an attempted coup and a violation of the country's constitution.

Castillo, who originally took office in June 2021, maintains he did not "commit the crime of conspiracy or rebellion." Boluarte, who was Castillo's vice president, was sworn into office after Castillo was impeached.

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Protesters are demanding Boluarte's government close Congress and move up the next general election.

On Monday, Boluarte restated she will not cooperate with protesters' demands to step down.

"The only thing in my hands is bringing forward elections and we've already proposed it," Boluarte said. "During peace, anything can be achieved, but amid violence and chaos it gets harder."

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