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More than 50 injured in Peru as protests cause ‘national chaos’

LIMA, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Dozens of Peruvians were injured after tensions erupted again on Friday night as police clashed with protesters during anti-government protests that are spreading across the country.

In the capital Lima, police used tear gas to repel protesters throwing glass bottles and rocks as fires burned in the streets, local television footage showed.

In the southern region of Puno, some 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the town of Ilave, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said in a statement to the media.

A police station in Zepita, Puno, was also on fire, Romero said.

Health authorities in Ilave reported eight patients hospitalized with injuries including broken arms and legs, eye bruises and punctured abdomens.

By late afternoon, 58 people had been injured across the country in protests, according to a report by the Peruvian mediator.

The unrest followed a day of unrest on Thursday, when one of Lima’s most historic buildings was set on fire, as President Dina Boluarte vowed to toughen up “vandals”.

The destruction of the building, a nearly century-old mansion in central Lima, was described by officials as the loss of a “monumental asset”. Authorities are investigating the causes.

Romero said Friday that the fire was “duly planned and organized.”

Thousands of protesters descended on Lima this week to call for change and angered by the rising death toll from the protests, which officially stood at 45 on Friday.

Protests have rocked Peru since President Pedro Castillo was ousted in December after he tried to dissolve the legislature to prevent an impeachment vote.

Until this week, the unrest has been concentrated in southern Peru.

In the Cusco region, Glencore’s (GLEN.L) The main copper mine in Antapaccay suspended operations on Friday after protesters attacked the premises – one of the biggest in the country – for the third time this month.

Airports in Arequipa, Cusco and the southern city of Juliaca were also attacked by protesters, dealing another blow to Peru’s tourism industry.

“It’s national chaos, you can’t live like this. We’re in terrible uncertainty – the economy, the vandalism,” said Lima resident Leonardo Rojas.

The government extended the state of emergency to six regions, restricting some civil rights.

But Boluarte rejected calls for his resignation and a snap election, instead calling for dialogue and promising to punish those involved in the unrest.

“The full rigor of the law will fall on those who acted vandalically,” Boluarte said Thursday.

Some residents have pointed the finger at Boluarte, accusing him of failing to take action to quell the protests, which began Dec. 7 in response to Castillo’s ouster and arrest.

Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms. Police say protesters used weapons and homemade explosives.

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Written by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Leslie Adler and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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