April 15, 2024

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Peru: Police violence goes unpunished and unsolved – News

Peru: Police violence goes unpunished and unsolved – News

A year ago Peru saw bloody protests against President Tina Polwart. 67 people died – most of them from police violence. It has repercussions to this day: Peru's first female president is highly controversial.

Human rights lawyer Cruz Silva congratulates 21-year-old student Esteban. We are located on the University of San Marcos campus. The university is the oldest public university in South America and a center of the political left. In early 2023, a violent police operation took place in central Lima.


University is a place of horror

Human rights lawyer Cruz Silva (left) and student Esteban stand in front of an exit at the University of San Marcos campus in Lima. A year ago, both were brutally beaten by the police here.

Teresa Delgado / SRF

“San Marcos has always been a haven for political protesters. It's a tradition here for demonstrators to live on campus. When we students saw people from southern Peru coming to Lima to protest, we knew they needed a place to stay. So we asked the university administration for permission to use the campus. .The principal refused,” Esteban recalled.

“Students we are still allowing protesters inside. No support available. We arranged mattresses, collected food and cooked for the demonstrators – among them were mothers with children.

Demonstration means: No income

Almost 80 percent of Peruvians work in the shadow economy without a contract, sick days or holidays. So demonstration means days of no income and no food.

Behind the walls we heard women screaming. It was terrible.

On January 20, 2023, the police entered the premises. “I came here when the evacuation started. The rectorate talked about trespassing – it wasn't, the demonstrators were only outside and didn't enter the university buildings. But this allegation gave the police a reason to take action,” says human rights lawyer Cruz Silva.

“The police did not allow us lawyers to pass, but we heard women screaming behind the compound walls. It was terrible.” Inside, in the compound, Esteban is beaten by the police until he can no longer walk.

Esteban's leg has not fully healed to this day.  The 21-year-old still limps.


Permanent damage

Esteban's leg has not fully healed to this day. The 21-year-old continues to falter. He did not feel safe on the university campus.

Teresa Delgado / SRF

The 21-year-old still limps. He recounts how the police raided students' residences without judicial permission: “We had to buy books by Marx, Kant, Nietzsche or Hobbes for our studies. Of course we keep them in our rooms to read. When the police found these books, they said, 'These students are terrorists'. Esteban's fellow students are bussed from campus to prison. He himself is hiding from the police in an ambulance.

Case at the International Criminal Court

“Videos of the eviction show violations of fundamental rights. In one picture you see old men, women and children lying face down on the ground. Another video shows a police officer abusing a woman,” says lawyer Cruz Silva.

An indigenous woman carries a Peruvian flag during the 2023 Tina Poluarte protest in Lima.


Excessive police violence?

An indigenous woman carries a Peruvian flag during the 2023 Tina Poluarte protest in Lima.

Keystone/Renato Pajuelo

A total of 67 people, most of them tribals, died in a wave of protests against Polwart a year ago. Peruvian prosecutors have filed a case against the president at the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity.

This is the current situation in Peru

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The Peruvian government has failed to credibly address police violence. Only one of the police officers involved is currently in custody. It is now quiet in the streets, but this silence is deceptive: it is primarily the fear of police violence and economic pressure that ensures that there are fewer people today than a year ago. According to studies, Dina Boluarte now has the lowest approval ratings in South America. Parliament can remove Dina Boluarte, but there is an implicit agreement between parliament and the president: they let each other have their way. That means Parliament is practically free from idiots until the next regular elections in 2026 and Tina Polwarte enjoys immunity. The government is increasingly doing politics without keeping the people in mind.

“We lawyers were attacked by the police. I couldn't work for two months and couldn't support my clients. We are not Ukraine or Gaza, but our democratic system is under pressure,” concludes lawyer Cruz Silva. The international community must now put pressure on the Peruvian government to respect human rights.

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