LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s attorney general on Monday blamed President Dina Boluarte and her prime minister for the deaths of “several” anti-government protesters earlier this year, and charged them with first-degree murder before the nation’s congress in a procedure known as a “constitutional complaint.”
A congressional committee must now review the complaint, which could lead to a trial if the charges are approved by a majority of the nation’s lawmakers.
Peru's constitution protects heads of state from most criminal charges while they are still in office. This means the complaint filed Monday against Boluarte would most likely initiate a trial after she finishes her term or if she is ousted from office through other means, such as an impeachment vote.
Peru has had five presidents since 2016, with none finishing their terms, and two of them impeached by the nation's powerful congress.
The charges pressed against Boluarte deepen a political crisis that broke out last year following the impeachment of former President Pedro Castillo, after he attempted to dissolve congress and rule by decree.
At least 49 people were killed in protests that followed the removal of Castillo, who was replaced by Boluarte, his vice president.
Boluarte has blamed criminal groups involved in illegal mining and left-wing radicals for the violence. But human rights groups have widely criticized her government for using excessive force against protesters in street clashes where police and soldiers used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds.
Critics also accuse Boluarte's government of taking an increasingly authoritarian bent, as it staves off demands for early elections and works with members of congress on laws that threaten to undermine the independence of Peru's judicial system.
The new charges against Boluarte were filed by Attorney General Patricia Benavides just hours after prosecutors accused Benavides of leading a corruption ring that allegedly dropped investigations against lawmakers that appointed some of her allies to influential positions within the judicial branch.
On Monday an anti-corruption team led by prosecutor Marita Barreto ordered the arrest of one of Benavides’ closest aides while police raided some of the attorney general's offices in Lima.
Benavides quickly fired Barreto and later published a video, in which she said she was charging President Boluarte for the murder of anti-government protesters. Benavides described the corruption probe against her as a “reprisal” for her efforts to defend human rights.
Boluarte dismissed the charges filed by the attorney general.
“It is strange that such a complaint has been presented after everyone in the country saw how the attorney general’s offices were raided, and how several members of her team were arrested for alleged acts of corruption,” Boluarte said in a statement broadcast by Peru’s public television channel.
____ Rueda reported from Bogota, Colombia. ____
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