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Peru police use tear gas to block protesters from marching

Peru police use tear gas to block protesters from marching

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Peru police use tear gas to block protesters from marching

Police fired tear gas to try to subdue thousands of protesters who poured into the Peruvian capital Thursday, many from remote Andean regions, calling for the ouster of President Dina Boluarte and the return to power of her predecessor, whose removal last month launched deadly unrest and cast the nation into political chaos.

The demonstrators gathered in Lima’s historic downtown scuffled with security forces who barred them from reaching key government buildings, including Congress, as well as business and residential districts of the capital.

Besides Boluarte’s resignation, the supporters of former President Pedro Castillo were demanding the dissolution of Congress and immediate elections. Castillo, Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background, was impeached after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.

For much of the day, the protests played out as a cat-and-mouse game, with demonstrators, some of whom threw rocks at law enforcement, trying to get through police lines and officers responding with volleys of tear gas that sent protesters fleeing, using rags dipped in vinegar to alleviate the sting to their eyes and skin.

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“We’re surrounded,” said Sofia López, 42, as she sat on a bench outside the country’s Supreme Court. “We’ve tried going through numerous places and we end up going around in circles.”

Late Thursday evening, firefighters were working to put out a raging inferno that broke out in an old building near the protests that were taking place in Plaza San Martín in downtown Lima but its relationship to the demonstrations was not immediately clear. Images showed people rushing to get their belongings out of the building that was close to several government offices.

As the sun set, fires smoldered in the streets of downtown Lima as protesters threw rocks at police officers who fired so much tear gas it was difficult to see.

“I’m feeling furious,” said Verónica Paucar, 56, coughing from the tear gas. “We’re going to return peacefully.”

There was visible frustration among protesters who had hoped to march into the Miraflores district, an emblematic neighborhood of the economic elite.

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In a Miraflores park, a large police presence separated the antigovernment protesters from a small group of demonstrators expressing support for law enforcement. Police fired tear gas there as well to disperse demonstrators.

Boluarte was defiant Thursday night in a televised speech alongside key government officials in which she thanked police for controlling the “violent protests” and vowed to prosecute those responsible for violence.

The president also criticized the protests for “not having any kind of social agenda that the country needs,” accused them of “wanting to break the rule of law” and raised questions about their financing.

A total of 22 police officers and 16 civilians were injured Thursday throughout the country, Interior Minister Vicente Romero Fernández said.
Peru’s ombudsman said at least 13 civilians and four police officers were injured in the Lima protests Thursday.

Until recently, the protests had been mainly in Peru’s southern Andes, with a total of 55 people killed in the unrest, mostly in clashes with security forces.

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Anger at Boluarte was the common thread Thursday as protesters chanted calls for her resignation and street sellers hawked T-shirts saying, “Out, Dina Boluarte,” “Dina murderer, Peru repudiates you” and “New elections, let them all leave.”

“Our God says thou shalt not kill your neighbor. Dina Boluarte is killing, she’s making brothers fight,” Paulina Consac said as she carried a large Bible while marching in downtown Lima with more than 2,000 protesters from Cusco.

By early afternoon, protesters had turned key roads into large pedestrian areas in downtown Lima.

“We’re at a breaking point between dictatorship and democracy,” said Pedro Mamani, a student at the National University of San Marcos, where demonstrators who traveled for the protest were being housed.

The university was surrounded by police officers, who also deployed at key points of Lima’s historic downtown district — 11,800 officers in all, according to Victor Zanabria, the head of the Lima police force.

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Protests were also held elsewhere and video posted on social media showed demonstrators trying to storm the airport in southern Arequipa, Peru’s second city. They were blocked by police and one person was killed in the ensuing clashes, Peru’s ombudsman said.

That was one of three airports that suffered attacks from protesters Thursday, Boluarte said, adding it wasn’t “a mere coincidence” they were stormed on the same day.

The protests, which erupted last month, have marked the worst political violence in more than two decades and highlighted the deep divisions between the urban elite largely concentrated in Lima and the poor rural areas.

By bringing the protest to Lima, demonstrators hoped to give fresh weight to the movement that began when Boluarte was sworn into office on Dec. 7 to replace Castillo.

“When there are tragedies, bloodbaths outside the capital it doesn’t have the same political relevance in the public agenda than if it took place in the capital,” said Alonso Cárdenas, a public policy professor at the Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University in Lima.

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The concentration of protesters in Lima also reflects how the capital has started to see more antigovernment demonstrations in recent days.
Boluarte has said she supports a plan to hold elections for president and Congress in 2024, two years before originally scheduled.

Activists have dubbed Thursday’s demonstration in Lima as the Cuatro Suyos March, a reference to the four cardinal points of the Inca empire. It’s also the name given to a massive 2000 mobilization, when thousands of Peruvians took to the streets against the autocratic government of Alberto Fujimori, who resigned months later.

But there are key differences between those demonstrations and this week’s protests.

“In 2000, the people protested against a regime that was already consolidated in power,” Cardenas said. “In this case, they’re standing up to a government that has only been in power for a month and is incredibly fragile.”

The 2000 protests also had a centralized leadership and were led by political parties.

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The latest protests have largely been grassroots efforts without a clear leadership, a dynamic that was clear Thursday as protesters often seemed lost and didn’t know where to head next as their path was continually blocked by law enforcement.

The protests have grown to such a degree that demonstrators are unlikely to be satisfied with Boluarte’s resignation and are now demanding more fundamental structural reform.

Protesters on Thursday said they would not be cowed.

“This isn’t ending today, it won’t end tomorrow, but only once we achieve our goals,” said 61-year-old David Lozada as he looked on at a line of police officers wearing helmets and carrying shields blocking protesters from leaving downtown Lima. “I don’t know what they’re thinking, do they want to spark a civil war?”

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

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US Coast Guard boards Chinese fishing boats near Kiribati, official says

The US Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said.

The United States is seeking a bigger role for its coast guard in helping remote Pacific Islands nations monitor millions of kilometres of ocean – a rich tuna fishing ground – a move that also boosts surveillance as a rivalry with China over security ties in the region intensifies.

Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese police are working in Kiribati, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program.

Kiribati, a nation of 115,000 residents, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls a 3.5 million square kilometre (1.35 million square mile) exclusive economic zone. It is also host to a Japanese satellite tracking station.

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Washington has flagged plans to build an embassy in Kiribati to compete with China, but has not yet done so.

Kiribati police officers were on patrol with the US Coast Guard as “ship riders” for the first time in almost a decade, between Feb. 11-16, a US Coast Guard Guam spokeswoman said.

“The two People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels were boarded as part of routine maritime law enforcement activities to ensure compliance with regulations within the Kiribati Exclusive Economic Zone,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed comments.

No concerns were reported during the boardings, she said.

“Both Kiribati officers from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit and US Coast Guard officers were involved in the boarding operations. This collaboration underscores the partnership between the two nations in upholding maritime law and good governance,” she added.

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The Kiribati president’s office and Chinese embassy did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Kiribati’s acting police commissioner, Eeri Aritiera, told Reuters last week that Chinese police on the island work with local police.

China built a large embassy on the main island, Tarawa, after Kiribati switched ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. 

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

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Ukraine downs nine Russian drones, three missiles, air force says

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday.

Russia also launched two S-300 missiles from anti-aircraft missile systems and one air-to-surface Kh-31P missile, the air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not clear what happened to the missiles and drones that were not downed. 

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

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Taiwan ally Tuvalu names Feleti Teo as new prime minister

Tuvalu on Monday announced former attorney general and fisheries official Feleti Teo as its new prime minister, after he was elected unopposed by lawmakers in the Pacific Islands nation, officials said.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his seat in a general election on Jan. 26 closely watched by Taiwan, China, the US and Australia, amid a geopolitical tussle for influence in the South Pacific.

Tuvalu, with a population of about 11,200 spread across nine islands, is one of three remaining Pacific allies of Taiwan, after Nauru cut ties last month and switched to Beijing, which had promised more development help.

Teo received unanimous support from the 16 lawmakers, two lawmakers told Reuters on Monday.

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Teo, who was educated in New Zealand and Australia, was Tuvalu’s first attorney general. He has decades of experience as a senior official in the regional fisheries organisation and has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s major political and economic group. Fishing is a major source of revenue in the Pacific islands.

“Feleti Teo was declared by the Governor General as Prime Minister for Tuvalu,” Tuvalu’s government secretary, Tufoua Panapa, said in an emailed statement.

Tuvalu lawmaker Simon Kofe congratulated Teo in a social media post.

“It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed,” he said.

The election result in Tuvalu had been delayed by a month as dangerous weather stopped boats from bringing new lawmakers to the capital to vote for prime minister, highlighting why climate change is the top political issue in the Pacific Islands nation.

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Taiwan’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s congratulations to Teo, adding that deputy foreign minister Tien Chung-kwang will visit Tuvalu in the near future.

Teo is a friend of Taiwan’s and has visited many times, and has said relations are stable and that maintaining ties is the widespread consensus in Tuvalu, the ministry added.

Taiwan previously said it was paying close attention to the election after Tuvalu’s finance minister in the previous government, Seve Paeniu, said the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China should be debated by the new government.

There had also been calls by some lawmakers to review a wide-ranging deal signed with Australia in November, that allows Canberra to vet Tuvalu’s police, port and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, in return for a defence guarantee and allowing citizens threatened by rising seas to migrate.

The deal was seen as an effort to curb China’s rising influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

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Teo’s position on Taiwan ties, and the Australian security and migration pact, have not been made public.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on social media he looked forward to working with Teo.

“Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” he wrote, referring to the migration pact.

Tuvalu’s ministry would be announced at an oath taking ceremony for the new government later this week, Panapa said.

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