A group of House Democrats is urging the Biden administration to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Peru over a “pattern of repression” of antigovernment protests that has resulted in more than 50 civilian deaths.
The letter, sent Monday and a copy of which was shared with The Associated Press, urges the Biden administration to halt all security assistance until it can confirm that the crackdown has ended and the Peruvian officials responsible for human rights abuses are being held accountable.
Peru’s foreign minister is in Washington this week seeking international support for President Dina Boluarte’s increasingly besieged government. Pressure has been mounting on Boluarte, the vice president under President Pedro Castillo, to resign the post she inherited last month when Castillo was impeached and arrested for his ill-fated attempt to close Peru’s Congress.
“Security forces have indiscriminately responded with almost no regard for protestors’ human rights,” according to the letter, which was signed by 20 mostly progressive House Democrats. “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 U.S. provides more than $40 million annually to Peru in security assistance, according to the Washington Office on Latin America. The vast majority is aimed at helping Peru counter drug trafficking.
While initially protesters were demanding Castillo’s release from jail, the unrest has spread across the country, galvanizing the support of many poor, indigenous Peruvians who have benefitted little from Peru’s mining-driven economic boom.
Protesters demand that both Boluarte and Congress stand down and that new elections be held this year. Lawmakers rejected that Friday, but after another protester died and Boluarte urged them to reconsider, Congress narrowly agreed Monday to debate a proposal to hold elections in October.