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Turmoil tears Peru apart as ‘excessive’ use of force fans the flames of public fury

More than 50 people have been shot dead by police and military during sometimes violent protests, some while storming regional airports. But they also include peaceful demonstrators, bystanders and a doctor treating an injured demonstrator. The rest are patients in ambulances stranded by road closures, plus a police officer found in a burned-out squad car.

Human rights groups accuse the government of using “excessive” force, and the United Nations is demanding an investigation into the deaths, which have only fueled public anger at a political establishment that many see as deeply corrupt.

Demonstrations that began in poor mountainous areas have now spilled over into the capital, Lima, where police dispersed protesters with tear gas. Meanwhile, road closures across the country have resulted in shortages of food, medicine and gasoline.

The mob also threw stones at the cars of a congressman and a minister, and burned the house of another deputy. On Friday, jungle governor Madre de Dios responded with gunfire after a gang surrounded his home.

Castillo, 53, tried to shut down Congress and the government by decree after he was cornered by anti-corruption prosecutors. The move was a flagrant violation of the constitution, and Congress promptly impeached him.

But the ousting of a political outsider by a congress with an ultra-conservative majority and a 90 percent disapproval rate angered many Peruvians, especially the rural poor, who closely identified with Castillo, who, like Candia, is a campesino, meaning someone of indigenous origin who works the land.

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