While some people living in urban areas dismissed these demonstrators as extremists, at least one trusted poll shows a majority of Peruvians support the protests.
What has the government done to address this unrest?
The new president, Dina Boluarte, called a national state of emergency, an exceptional measure limiting guarantees to certain civil rights. The protests only got bigger and more violent. The police and military were sent to try to restore order in rural areas, and they responded at times with extraordinary violence. Security forces shot some in the chest, back and head.
You went to Juliaca, a southern city where 19 people were killed on Jan. 9. How did you get there if the protesters shut down highways and immobilized the country?
My colleagues and I persuaded protesters to let us through roadblocks by carrying printed copies of our previous stories, often talking with demonstrators for hours. It was night when we finally arrived to Juliaca after nine hours of driving. The street was blocked with part of a rusted amusement-park ride, chicken wire and small fires. It really felt like we’d arrived at the end of times.
What did you find in the morning?
We woke up in the Andes at nearly 13,000 feet above sea level. Juliaca is a city of extremes: The sun feels closer, harsher. The wind is cutting, dusty and cold. One of the first things that we saw when we left the hotel was a spontaneous march happening in the streets.
There were young people in skinny jeans and older women in traditional skirts, braids and hats. Together, they blamed the new president for the protesters’ deaths and said, “This democracy is no longer a democracy.”
What did you learn from speaking with protesters?
Being there helped me understand why people feel the Peruvian democracy is not working for them. People feel the system is rigged against them. And on the ground, I could really see why they believed that.