Six soldiers drowned, washed away by a river, as they tried to flee anti-government protesters threatening them in the Puno region of southern Peru, the Defense Ministry said.
The bodies of six soldiers were discovered in the icy waters of the Ilave River, a tributary of Lake Titicaca, on the border with Bolivia, the Peruvian Defense Ministry said on March 6. According to the army, the soldiers were trying to flee from demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, who replaced Pedro Castillo after his dismissal in December by parliament.
The military patrol was traveling to the town of Juli, also located in the Puno region, where clashes broke out on March 4, leaving at least 16 civilians and soldiers injured.
General Jhony Leon, head of the Southern Military Region, claimed that these soldiers had been attacked by “the population”. “We crossed the river (…) because we had no other way to escape. Between 800 and 900 people surrounded us and started throwing stones at us (…) People called us corrupt and murderers,” said a soldier wrapped in a blanket in a video released by the ministry.
According to his account, the soldiers tried to make a human chain but “the current swept (them) away and some began to drown.” MoD video shows 15 soldiers seated in an arc and wrapped in blankets reporting to a superior.
“With the discovery of the body of Corporal Carlos Quispe Montalico, the search that began after these unfortunate events is concluded, honor and glory to our brave soldier and his five comrades”, wrote the Ministry of Defense on Twitter.
Peru is embroiled in a serious political and social crisis which erupted on December 7 with the ousting and imprisonment of the former left-wing president, replaced by his vice-president. Pedro Castillo, 53, is accused of having attempted a coup d’etat by wanting to dissolve the Assembly which was preparing to oust him from power.
His fall after 17 months at the helm sparked violent protests that left 54 dead, including the six soldiers, and more than 1,300 injured, nearly half of them men in uniform, according to the ombudsman’s office. . In addition to the resignation of Dina Boluarte, the protesters demand the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of early elections in 2023.