QUINUA, Peru ( Associated Press) — The grounds of this rural town in the Peruvian Andes were the scene of a pivotal battle that won South America’s independence from Spain in the 19th century.
But on Saturday, the streets of Quinua were invaded by tears from people who attended the funeral of Clamar Rojas, a 23-year-old student who left his parents’ home on Thursday to protest the ouster of President Pedro Castillo and never did not come back ,
A funeral procession of more than two thousand peasants accompanied by drums, harps and saxophones carried Rojas’ casket, draped in the Peruvian flag, to a colonial church, where there was a mass in Quechua and he was later buried. Among the crowd were posters calling for the shutdown of Congress and calling President Dina Boluaarte a “murderer”.
“My son is going. Tell me he’s not going,” lamented Nilda García, Rojas’ mother and a street vendor, in Quechua, as friends and family struggled to keep her from fainting and carried her to the hospital. Gave water to drink.
Rojas was killed in clashes with the army in the nearby regional capital of Ayacucho, which has become the center of demonstrations calling for the resignation of all legislators and President Bolvarte. The crisis in Peru began when former President Castillo attempted to shut down Congress, an act condemned by the US and other countries as a self-coup, but in this remote village as an act of defiance against a hostile ruling class. Seen as a performance that never happened. Granted the former rural schoolteacher has governed since her landslide victory 17 months ago.
Boluaarte has tried to quell the protests by emphasizing his own Andean origins and his support for the protesters’ demands that elections scheduled for 2026 be brought forward to next year. In a press conference on Saturday, Peru’s first female president spoke in Quechua, a language no former president has ever spoken, comparing roadblocks, arson and violent protests to growing up in a broken home with parents Growing up with invisible emotional damage.
The army blames bloodshed in Ayacucho on a group of young protesters who on Thursday attacked an army patrol headed to the airport with blunt objects, explosives and homemade firearms to break up an unruly crowd.
Nine people have died in Ayacucho, out of a total of 22 in different parts of the country, less than a week after the protests began. The deaths in Ayacucho occurred when soldiers left barracks and fired their rifles under a 30-day state of emergency. Police, for their part, fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.
In a bitter and ironic fate, Rojas, who was a soldier, was killed by a bullet from another recruit. Like his father, he served as part of the military service in the army, where most of the soldiers are teenagers from poor, Quechua-speaking homes.
Klemmer’s father, Ryder Rojas, indicated that his son “was not armed.” “He shot at point blank range. The autopsy said that a bullet fired from a Galileo rifle used by the army penetrated his liver and lungs,” said the man dressed in black during the funeral.
In Quinua, Rojas is remembered as a happy-go-lucky boy and a member of a folkloric carnival dance group. His father states that he also drove a motorcycle taxi to pay for his studies at an institute where he was learning auto mechanics.
Despite its small agricultural economy, Ayacucho played an important role in Peruvian history.
It was part of the Inca Empire which was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century. It was later renamed Ayacucho, probably in reference to the battle in which the rebel army finally defeated the Spanish army in 1824. Its name in Quechua translates as “corner of the dead”, probably in honor of the many victims of the battle.
The region’s poverty – even now, 45% of children under the age of 3 suffer from anemia, according to the government – made it a breeding ground for the Shining Path group that terrorized much of Peru. But the military response of killings, torture and sexual assaults has left deep wounds and resentment among many residents against the capital’s ruling elite.
In an echo of past statements that stigmatized Ayacucho residents as terrorist sympathizers, José Williams – who is in line as congressman should Boluaarte step down – walked among the backstage ” Black hands” accused of violence.
“They appear in one place, in another, and they have similar characteristics,” said Williams, a retired army general who served in Ayacucho during the worst of the internal armed conflict. “There is something behind this that is trying to lead us to anarchy,” he said.
Between 2008 and 2012, forensics recovered 109 bones from a piece of land next to the Ayacucho Army Base. Many of the bodies were cremated in a tandoor that was used by the military during the armed conflict to burn part of the corpses of those who had been murdered and tortured inside the base. According to a truth commission, the conflict resulted in approximately 70,000 victims.
That fraught past was remembered among those who took to the streets of Ayacucho on Friday, a day after deadly riots, demanding Boluaarte’s resignation. Some even sang “La Flor de Retama”, whose lyrics recall a previous tragedy in 1969, when more than 20 schoolchildren protested against the military dictatorship in the second city of Ayacucho.
“We are going back to those painful years,” said Rocio Leandro, a community leader who was among those marching on Friday to demand justice for those killed. “They treat us as third or fourth class creatures.”
Associated Press reporter Joshua Goodman contributed to this report from Miami.