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Peru protesters clash with police in airport takeover attempt

Demonstrators block the Desaguadero Border Crossing Point between Bolivia and Peru during a protest following the ouster of Peru’s former President Pedro Castillo, in Desaguadero, Peru, Jan 6, 2023. (CLAUDIA MORALES / REUTERS)

LIMA – Dozens of protesters attempted to take over an airport near Peru's border with Bolivia Friday as part of anti-government protests, prompting police to use tear gas to disperse them.

Protesters set fire to a police tank outside the Inca Manco Capac airport in Juliaca, in Peru's Puno region, according to images on social media and local television.

Protests against President Dina Boluarte resumed this week after a two-week pause, following violent clashes in December that left 22 dead after the removal and arrest of former president Pedro Castillo.

News outlets in Puno reported 15 injured, including two policemen. The health ministry did not immediately confirm the reports.

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Andean Airports of Peru, which operates the Juliaca airport, said services were suspended "due to the violent acts and lack of security."

Up to 49 blockade points were reported Friday in different regions of the country, an uptick from the day before, said the Ombudsman's office

In December, protesters forced the temporary closure of three airports in Peru.

Demonstrators demand Boluarte's resignation, the closure of Congress, constitutional changes and Castillo's release. The former president is serving 18 months in pre-trial detention while being investigated for "rebellion" after illegally trying to close Congress, a charge he denies.

Up to 49 blockade points were reported Friday in different regions of the country, an uptick from the day before, the Ombudsman's office said in a statement.

In the Ica region, on Peru's central coast, protesters have blocked a key highway, stranding dozens of passenger and cargo transport vehicles.

READ MORE: Peru ministers quit after protest deaths as new govt wobbles

"We have already supported last year's strike, we have been unemployed for about 10 days and the truth is, with the pandemic and all that there has been, we want to continue working," said Jose Palomino, a driver affected by the roadblock.

Trucks are seen in line while Peruvian demonstrators block the Desaguadero Border Crossing Point between Bolivia and Peru to protest the ouster of Peru's former President Pedro Castillo, in Desaguadero, Bolivia Jan 6, 2023. (CLAUDIA MORALES / REUTERS)

The attorney general's office said Friday it was assessing complaints against Boluarte and three of her ministers and, if warranted, would launch an investigation into deaths that occurred during December's protests.

Human rights group have accused security forces of using deadly firearms and launching smoke bombs on protesters, who the army says have used homemade weapons and explosives.

Boluarte welcomed the prosecutor's announcement on Twitter, writing that she "will provide all the appropriate resources for the prompt clarification of the facts, as he has repeatedly requested."