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Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have been flooding into Peru's capital

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Protesters in Peru are pressuring the country's new president to step down. Today thousands of demonstrators flooded into the capital city of Lima. Protests and clashes with security forces have killed more than 50 people since Peru's former president tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. Those deaths have mainly impacted people in Peru's southern countryside. Enraged residents from those rural cities brought their demands to the capital today. And NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Lima. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Describe the situation right now in the capital city.

KAHN: I'm here near a well-known park. It's called Kennedy Park in Lima, near downtown. And anti-government marchers have been streaming into the city and here for days. One group I was with came from the Andean Highlands city of Ayacucho. Out of the 53 deaths of the past weeks, at least 10 were from Ayacucho. This is the worst violence, Ari, that Peru has seen, you know, due to political unrest in decades. And authorities today have brought in 12,000 officers to Lima, and barricades are up all around key government buildings.

SHAPIRO: These protests have been going on for more than a month. Remind us how it all started.

KAHN: Well, back in December, when the former president tried to dissolve Congress and was impeached and arrested, the demands then were to release him. He was this political newcomer from the rural south. His support is there, and that's where the protests began. But within weeks, the death toll started growing, nearly all civilians by police forces, according to human rights advocates. And anger has just swelled as that death toll has increased.

SHAPIRO: So what are protesters demanding now?

KAHN: Well, their demands have changed a little bit. They blame the current president, Dina Boluarte, for the deaths. They want her out. And they want new elections this year. But protesters from the south brought their demands directly to Lima. They're saying to the elite here, the urban world, do, they say, ignore their plight. Here's Mirtha Vasquez. She was prime minister under Castillo, but resigned after decrying corruption in his ranks. And she says, look; this huge gap between the urban elites and poor Indigenous in the south must be addressed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIRTHA VASQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says, "these are historic demands. We want justice, equality. They must stop treating us like we don't exist, we don't matter. And above all, the killings must stop."

SHAPIRO: You're based in Brazil, although we're speaking to you right now in Peru. You were just reporting on the storming of government buildings by supporters of the former far-right president there in the city of Brasilia. Now you're covering this unrest in Peru. Is democracy having a tough time in the region right now?

KAHN: Definitely. There are challenges in both these countries. Brazil is holding up as authorities, you know, search for the perpetrators of those attacks. And they're conducting widespread investigations. Peru is much more tenuous. Analysts tell me its political structure is very weak. Look, Ari. The current president doesn't even have a party. Political scientist Alberto Vergara here at the Pacific University says democracy in Peru muddles on despite its politicians.

ALBERTO VERGARA: Because it's the mediocrity of politicians what assures that no one is able to build an authoritarian regime.

KAHN: But he did warn - and he's very concerned - he thinks that the violence can get much worse here in Peru.

SHAPIRO: So it doesn't look like an end is in sight, at least in the near term.

KAHN: No, it does not.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Carrie Kahn covering those protests in Lima. Thank you for your reporting.

KAHN: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.