Police arrest a demonstrator during a protest in Lima

Police arrest a demonstrator during a protest in Lima, Peru on January 24, 2023.

(Photo: Ernesto Benavides/AFP via Getty Images)

House Dems Push Biden to Cut Off Security Aid to Peru Over 'Violent Repression of Protests'

Peruvian security forces have met protests against unelected President Dina Boluarte with "indiscriminate violence," the U.S. lawmakers wrote.

Twenty House Democrats on Monday pressed the Biden administration to immediately halt the flow of security funding to the Peruvian government over its vicious crackdown on protests against unelected President Dina Boluarte, who rose to power following the arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo last month.

Since Castillo's arrest and imprisonment—which drew vocal opposition from political leaders in the region—mass demonstrations have broken out and spread across Peru as largely low-income and Indigenous supporters of Castillo mobilize to demand his release, Boluarte's resignation, and sweeping constitutional reforms. Peru's security forces have swiftly and violently cracked down in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the uprising, killing more than 50 people and injuring hundreds more.

In a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, a group of House Democrats led by Reps. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) condemned the "indiscriminate violence" and "consistent use of excessive force" by Peruvian security forces and urged the administration to "publicly denounce these ongoing human rights violations."

The lawmakers also called on Biden to pause all security funding to Peru, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars annually. The House Democrats pointed with alarm to the U.S. ambassador to Peru's "recent meeting with the Peruvian minister of defense and announcement of $8 million in further U.S. funding for CORAH, a Peruvian government coca eradication program, which includes funding for forces involved in the egregious human rights violations that are currently taking place."

"We urge your administration to immediately suspend U.S. security assistance to Peru until the violent repression of protests ends and steps are taken by the country's authorities to investigate human rights crimes and prosecute those responsible," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter came days after police killed a 55-year-old demonstrator in the Peruvian capital of Lima, where protests have swelled in recent days.

Boluarte, who has imposed curfews in several regions and curtailed civil liberties, is urging Peru's conservative-dominated Congress to approve a plan to hold new elections this year instead of in 2024 in an effort to end the demonstrations. Resisting pressure to resign, Boluarte—who served as vice president under Castillo—has pledged to stay on as president until new elections are held.

As Agence France-Presse reported Monday: "Boluarte said that if lawmakers refused to bring forward the vote, she would propose a constitutional reform so that a first round of elections would be held in October and a runoff in December. Demonstrators are calling for immediate elections, as well as Boluarte's removal, the dissolution of Congress, and a new constitution."

In their letter, the 20 House Democrats raised concern that the Biden administration has granted legitimacy and support to the Boluarte government as it rolls back basic freedoms and kills demonstrators.

Less than two weeks after Castillo's arrest, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Boluarte in which he said he "looks forward" to working with her "on shared goals and values related to democracy, human rights, security, anti-corruption, and economic prosperity."

The Democratic lawmakers also pointed to the Biden administration's expressed support for "peace on all sides," a message that the members of Congress called "ambiguous" in the face of massive human rights violations.

"The U.S. government can and must do more," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe our proposed actions would send a powerful signal in support of fundamental rights and help promote effective engagement for a political resolution."

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