LIMA, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Dozens of Peruvians were injured after tensions flared again on Friday night as police clashed with protesters in anti-government demonstrations that are spreading across the country.
In the capital Lima, police officers used tear gas to repel demonstrators throwing glass bottles and stones, as fires burned in the streets, local TV footage showed.
In the country’s southern Puno region, some 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the town of Ilave, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said in a statement to news media.
A police station in Zepita, Puno, was also on fire, Romero said.
Health authorities in Ilave reported eight patients hospitalized with injuries, including broken arms and legs, eye contusions and punctured abdomens.
By late afternoon, 58 people had been injured nationwide in demonstrations, according to a report from Peru’s ombudsman.
The unrest followed a day of turmoil in Thursday, when one of Lima’s most historic buildings burned to the ground, as President Dina Boluarte vowed to get tougher on “vandals.”
The destruction of the building, a near-century-old mansion in central Lima, was described by officials as the loss of a “monumental asset.” Authorities are investigating the causes.
Romero on Friday claimed the blaze was “duly planned and arranged.”
Thousands of protesters descended on Lima this week calling for change and angered by the protests’ mounting death toll, which officially stood at 45 on Friday.
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, 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 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 rigor of the law will fall on those people who have acted with vandalism,” Boluarte said on Thursday.
Some locals pointed the finger at Boluarte, accusing her of not taking 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.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Leslie Adler and William Mallard)