The Inter-American Commission calls for the right to protest to be guaranteed during the pandemic

Thousands of young people protested in Lima between November 9 and 14, rejecting the interim government of Manuel Merino, and the police reacted with disproportionate repression that caused the death of two people and severe injuries to dozens of citizens. The Sagasti government was installed on November 17, two days after Merino's resignation, as he had been left without political support from his allies in Congress and from his Cabinet after the tragedy of deaths and injuries on November 14. Two weeks later, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), led by president Joel Hernández, landed in the Peruvian capital to assess the situation.

The Reasons for the Protests

For three days, the team collected testimonies from relatives of the deceased, injured protesters arbitrarily detained in the demonstrations, representatives of the state authorities and the police. The young people who took to the streets last month, baptized as the Bicentennial Generation, considered it illegitimate that the then president of Congress, Merino, took over as interim head of state after Parliament removed Martín Vizcarra. Merino is part of an alliance of political groups that defend their imprisoned leaders.

During Merino's interim days, the police did not respect their riot control manuals and attacked the Ombudsman's Office representatives when they tried to stop shooting at unarmed people on the fifth day of protests. The Prosecutor's Office investigates both the political leaders and the police officers for the facts. The police violence has shocked Peru recorded in hundreds of images from the press, which was also attacked by law enforcement agencies and TikTok users' videos.

The entity evaluated the disproportionate reaction of the police in the recent demonstrations in Peru

The visit to Peru is part of broad monitoring of the social protest, which began last year when the Commission visited Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia, following the convulsive protests. One of the conclusions of the delegation of the Inter-American Commission is that in Lima, "there was a peaceful, enthusiastic and massive protest." The president of the inter-American entity added that "the justice system is investigating two regrettable deaths and a high number of seriously injured people, and there is a commitment by the president to carry out reparations to those who affected."

Belated yet Effective Measures against Disproportionate Police Force

The aftermath of the police acts caused the first casualty in Sagasti's Cabinet. The transitional president appointed a retired police officer as the new Interior Minister after Merino's allied political groups announced that they would not give the Cabinet a vote of confidence if it kept its Interior Minister, civilian Rubén Vargas. The president of the Inter-American Commission pointed to an aspect to observe that the police made arbitrary arrests and the prosecutors did not arrive at the police stations first five days of the protests against Merino. "It was one of the testimonies we received that they spent a long time in the police stations awaiting the Prosecutor's Office. We understand that one reason for this lag was a lack of rapid adaptation to the social complexity experienced, which is going from virtual to face-to-face actions during the pandemic," he commented. The nation's prosecutor, Zoraida Ávalos, verified the corrective measures taken with around 91 complaints filed for police violence during the days of demonstrations in Lima.