Military officials said on Monday that four Peruvian soldiers drowned while trying to swim across a river in the Andes, where protests demanding the resignation of Peru’s president turned violent.
Two soldiers were also missing and five were suffering from hypothermia after attempting to cross the Illwe River on Sunday, the Defense Ministry said, adding that the ministry flew its flag at half-mast to mourn the deceased.
Soldiers try to move into the Puno region town of Juli to help secure the area after protests on Saturday that turned violent leaving five civilians injured and a police station and courthouse on fire .
Troops based in the nearby town of Ilwe initially tried to cross the river using a bridge, but protesters blocked it, forcing the troops to try to swim to another location in near-freezing temperatures.
The ministry blamed the deaths partly on the “hostile attitude” of protesters blocking the bridge.
13 killed in fresh anti-government protests in Peru
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Street protests have engulfed Peru since December 7, when former President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background, was impeached and jailed last month after trying to dissolve Congress. given.
His vice-president, Dina Boluarte, then became president, but protesters, mostly from rural areas, demanded her resignation. Boluarte has said she will not resign until her successor is chosen.
The Puno region has seen particularly intense protests, including a protest on 9 January that left 18 civilians dead.
Following the latest unrest, videos broadcast by local television stations showed groups of protesters carrying, clothing and feeding soldiers who had been rescued from the river and were shivering from the cold.
Samuel Canzas, a farmer and the father of the deceased soldier Franz Canzas, told La Repubblica newspaper that “the usurper President Dina Boluaart was to blame.”
In total, 64 people, mostly protesters, were killed in the protests that began in December, according to Peru’s ombudsman. Of that total, 48 are civilians who died after direct conflict with security forces.
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