In the small bedroom of a tin-roofed house in the southern Peruvian town of Juliaca, Asunta Jumpiri holds her 15-year-old son’s torn red and black sweatshirt years old, whose dark eyes stare at him from half a dozen framed pictures in the room.
His son Brayan wore it when he was shot in the back of the neck on January 9, the deadliest day of violence Peru has seen in more than two decades and which has left a deep scar in the country’s southern Andes.
Brayan had come to town with his mother, 9-year-old younger brother and pregnant older sister to see a doctor. Brayan then asked to go to an internet cafe and arranged to meet later at a nearby junction, his mother said.
But Brayan was caught up in the protests. Security camera footage obtained by Reuters shows the moment he was shot, identifiable by his distinctive red and black sweatshirt.
Brayan died in hospital from his injuries three days later on January 12. His autopsy revealed that he had a fractured skull and died of head trauma caused by a gun projectile.
“Do you think we will forgive him for this?” Brayan’s mother, Jumpiri, told Reuters at home. “No, we’re not going to forgive. In my case, I’m ready to fight. If I have to die, I’m not afraid now that my son is leaving. I’m not afraid anymore.”
With some 35 million people and huge copper reserves, Peru is struggling to regain stability after months of anti-government protests and clashes that have left 49 dead, blocked roads across the country and demanded the resignation of the government. government and Congress.
Growing calls for justice represent an obstacle to restoring peace, shattered by the dramatic ousting of leftist President Pedro Castillo on December 7.
Since the first death during protests in mid-December, prosecutors have opened at least 11 investigations into people killed in clashes with security forces.
The Juliaca prosecutor’s office said it was not authorized to discuss the investigations, and police declined to comment.
There has been a lull in the fighting since its peak, but anger is simmering.
Zarai Toledo, a postdoctoral fellow at the Inter-American Center for Politics and Research (CIPR) who has studied social conflict in Peru, says the current wave of protests is unlike any she’s seen since the country returned to power. democracy, and that the lack of accountability is dangerous for democracy.
“The country is super unpredictable, but this level of repression can help us make the case that those who have been victimized by repression will not stop,” Toledo said.
THE SCARS OF VIOLENCE
Brayan was one of 19 people killed in Juliaca. The scars of the violence are scattered across the city, etched into the streets and buildings: charred car bodies, burned tires and broken glass litter the roads. Anti-government banners hang from overpasses calling for the president’s resignation.
Relatives of the victims banded together, appealed for legal support and formed an association to encourage the authorities to act. They are coordinating with families and organizations across the country to take legal action against President Dina Boluarte and other members of the government.
Boluarte said there would be no “impunity” for the protest deaths, but families say they have seen little progress.
Rosa Luque has criticized authorities for not doing enough to collect evidence after her 18-year-old son, Heliot Luque, was shot dead around 5:30 p.m. on January 9. He died from a single bullet to the chest, according to the autopsy.
“Aren’t they supposed to be the authority and that’s what they should be doing?” Luque said.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and several sentenced to prison terms as the government has taken a hard line against the violence of the protests, including threatening heavy prison terms for those who support what it calls “terrorist” acts. “.
“They are not investigating the deceased right away. But yes, whoever is doing harm or directing something, they have been arrested and are already in jail. What about the deceased? They are worthless,” said Dionisio Aroquipa, whose 17-year-old daughter, Jhamlith Nataly, died on January 9.
Investigators found a 9 millimeter (mm) bullet lodged in his body according to an autopsy report viewed by Reuters.
“Let justice be done, a thorough investigation be carried out. I would like to see who fired,” Aroquipa said.