Catholic prelate chides Peru Congress for inaction on vote

(Photo by Cris BOURONCLE / AFP)

A Roman Catholic cardinal voiced dismay Saturday that the nation’s Congress again declined to advance elections to defuse Peru’s political crisis.

“It hurts our souls that they have (not acted on) a proposal to move up elections,” Cardinal Pedro Barreto said, hours after the church’s highest ecclesiastical body sent a letter to legislators warning them that it is “urgent” to move up elections to later this year.

Hundreds of protesters, meanwhile, amassed at vehicular chokepoints around the capital in further unrest that has roiled the nation for nearly two months.

Congress a day earlier slammed the door shut until August on any further debate to bring forward general elections currently slated for April 2024 into 2023 — a key demand of near-daily demonstrations that are crippling the country of 33 million people.

For the fourth time in a week, legislators rejected a bill on advancing elections, blocking further debate on procedural technicalities.

The move dimmed prospects for an avenue out of the crisis, which has claimed 48 lives since 7 December, when then-president Pedro Castillo was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

In December, lawmakers moved elections, originally due in 2026, up to April 2024, but as protesters dug in their heels, President Dina Boluarte, Castillo’s former vice president, called for holding the vote this year instead.

Boluarte’s original intention was to fulfill Castillo’s term into 2026, but amid the explosion of protests, she exhorted Congress to move up the date.

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