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Peru: Pro-Coup Leftist Mob Storms Lima, Burns Down Historic Building

A violent, radical leftist mob stormed Lima, Peru, on Thursday, demanding the interim president’s resignation in defense of communist former President Pedro Castillo, currently imprisoned for attempting to stage a coup.

“The Taking of Lima,” as the mob branded its attack, saw leftist rioters from the southern regions of the country clash with police across the main streets of Lima. The violence left 22 injured policemen, 16 injured civilians, and a historic building completely consumed by a fire.

Since December, Peru has faced an increasingly deadly wave of left-wing riots that have so far killed 54 people and left hundreds injured. Leftists began rioting following Castillo’s arrest. The former president, barely over a year into his term, attempted to stage a coup d’etat in December by dissolving Congress right before it had scheduled an impeachment vote he was likely to lose.

Left-wing Dina Boluarte, who served as Castillo’s vice president, assumed the presidency of Lima in the aftermath of his arrest, becoming the nation’s sixth president over the past six years.

The violent leftist rioters demand the liberation of Castillo — who is currently serving 18 months in prison pending his trial — as well as the resignation of Boluarte, the closure of Congress, new general elections, and, more recently, began to demand a completely new constitution for the South American nation.

The violent clashes between rioters and the police reportedly began after 5:00 p.m. when the rioters attempted to advance towards the Peruvian Congress. Local police authorities blocked their path with shields and tear gas. As the night went on, the clashes became more violent. Rioters reportedly began taking pieces of concrete and sidewalk paving stones to use as projectiles against the police.

On Thursday evening, a fire broke out in a historical building located in near Lima’s Plaza San Martín, one of the capital’s iconic landmarks.

The fire completely destroyed the building, built in 1930 and considered cultural heritage, leaving 14 destroyed households and affecting 28 citizens, who are now homeless.

A group of more than 80 firefighters inmediatedly arrived to the burning building. Mario Casaretto, Lima’s Civil Defense manager, estimated that it would take up to three days to fully extinguish the fire. The fires also caused the collapse of five adjoining households.

“There is various debris that will not allow the fire to be controlled. But the firefighters will continue by order of Commander Luis Ponce, in case the fire resumes,” Casaretto stated.

Peruvian network ATV Noticias reported on Friday morning that the building will be demolished, as the fire completely consumed the building’s interior and the remaining parts of the structure could collapse at any moment.

Casaretto told ATV Noticias that the cause of the fire is still being investigated.

“Both the Municipality and the firefighters, we cannot advance an opinion because this ends up being prosecuted. This is the responsibility of the National Police, through the State Security and Fire Investigation Unit. They will determine the causes and consequences of the emergency,” he stated.

In a press conference held on Thursday, Peru’s Interior Minister Vicente Romero ruled out that the fire was caused by a tear gas device thrown by the Peruvian National Police. Romero issued the statement after rumors surfaced on social media against the nation’s police authorities, accusing them of having caused the fire.

“Information has circulated that this fire would have been caused by a tear gas device used by the Police, which is totally false,” Minister Romero said.

Shortly after the events on Thursday, President Dina Boluarte addressed the nation, praising the labor of the National Police and affirming, “the government stands firm” and “more united than ever.” She rejected all calls for her to resign.

“To those who march daily: who finances them? They have wanted to take over three airports in the country, this has been prepared with premeditation,” Boluarte continued.

While the “Taking of Lima” occurred on Thursday, rioters attempted to take control of three airports in the regions of Arequipa and Cusco, leaving two more dead and 13 more injured, including one police officer.

Boluarte also confirmed a willingness to dialogue with the mob despite the increase in violent clashes.

“Again I call for dialogue, I call for calm,” she remarked. She also announced that the authorities will act “with the full weight of the law” and are “individualizing these bad citizens who are generating acts of violence.”

Peruvian authorities have accused foreign and domestic leftist organizations of having influenced and incited the riots. Last weekend, Peruvian police authorities claimed there is “no doubt” that members of the Peruvian Marxist terrorist organization Shining Path are involved in the violent protests and riots.

Earlier in January, Peru’s Defense Minister Jorge Chávez announced that foreigners from Bolivia had entered the country to incite the leftist riots and promote separatist actions in the nation’s south, where the protests have been the most intense. Similarly, Peruvian lawmakers accused former far-left Bolivian President Evo Morales of inciting the riots and promoting the annexation of Peru’s Puno region to Bolivia.

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