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Police raid university in Lima, close Machu Picchu amid unrest in Peru | Peru

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Dozens of police stormed a university in Lima on Saturday, tearing down the gates with an armored vehicle, firing tear gas and detaining more than 200 people who had come to the Peruvian capital to take part in anti-government protests.

Footage showed dozens of people lying face down on the floor of the University of San Marcos after the police raid. Students said they were pushed, kicked and beaten with batons as they were forced out of their dorms.

The police raid on the University of San Marcos – the oldest in the Americas – is the latest in a series of outrages that are driving growing calls for President Dina Boluarte to step down after six weeks of unrest that has claimed 60 lives, leaving at least 580 wounded and over 500 arrested.

Amid demonstrations and with roadblocks paralyzing much of the country, Peruvian authorities on Saturday ordered the closure “until further notice” of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the Inca trail that leads to the world heritage archaeological site – the biggest attraction tourist attraction of Peru that brings in more than a million visitors a year.

Rescue teams on Saturday evacuated more than 400 tourists trapped in the iconic site, Peru’s Ministry of Tourism said.

“This afternoon, the 418 national and foreign visitors were transferred from the city of Machu Picchu to … Cusco,” the ministry’s Twitter account posted, along with photos of a train and passengers.

Demonstrations began in early December in support of ousted former president Pedro Castillo, but changed to demanding Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of Congress and new elections.

Boluarte, 60, was Castillo’s vice president and replaced him after he tried to close Congress and rule by decree on Dec. 7.

People arrested on the campus of the University of San Marcos in Lima.
People arrested on the campus of the University of San Marcos in Lima. Photography: Juan Mandamiento/AFP/Getty Images

Many of those arrested in Saturday’s operation traveled from southern Peru to the capital to take part in a demonstration last Thursday dubbed the “takeover of Lima”, which began peacefully but ended in ongoing battles between protesters and riot police in amid hurled rocks and swirls of tear gas.

In a statement on twitterthe office of the UN high commissioner for human rights called on the peruvian authorities to “ensure the legality and proportionality of the [police] intervention and due process guarantees”.

He emphasized the importance of the presence of prosecutors, absent in the first hours of the operation.

Students living in housing developments said they were violently forced out of their rooms by armed police who broke down doors and used shoving and kicking to evict them.

Esteban Godofredo, a 20-year-old political science student, received medical treatment for a leg injury.

“Him [a police officer] hit me with the bat and he threw me to the ground and started kicking me,” said Godofredo, sitting on the grass outside the residence with a badly bruised and bandaged right calf.

Esteban Godofredo, student, receives treatment for leg injuries
Esteban Godofredo, a student, is treated for a leg injury. Photography: Dan Collyns/The Guardian

Videos seen by the Guardian showed confused and terrified students gathered outside their hallways, some still in their pajamas, as riot police shouted orders and insults. Young people were forced to stand against the wall or kneel in a row.

“They pointed their guns at us and shouted, ‘Out.’ We didn’t even have time to get our IDs,” said Jenny Fuentes, 20, a trainee teacher.

“They forced us to kneel. Many of the girls were crying, but we were told to shut up. They didn’t tell us why we were being forced out of our rooms.

The group of about 90 students, who had remained on campus over the summer break to work and study, were then ushered into the main courtyard, a 10-minute walk away, where the others had been detained.

Several hours after the break-in, they were not allowed to return to their rooms, which were being searched by the police.

Items that Peruvian police said belonged to detained protesters who were staying on the San Marcos University campus in Lima.
Items that Peruvian police said belonged to detained protesters who were on campus. Photography: Dan Collyns/The Guardian

“I was a student at San Marcos [University] and we haven’t seen such indignation since the 1980s”, said congresswoman Susel Paredes, when she was prevented from entering the campus by a police cordon.

“The police entered the university residence, the rooms of the students who had nothing to do with the demonstrators. They threatened them and took them out of their rooms while they slept.”

Paredes said it was a flashback to regular police and armed forces attacks on the public university in the 1980s and 1990s, when the campus was seen as a hotbed of subversion during the state’s conflict with Mao-inspired Sendero Luminoso rebels. .

“We are not in that era, we are supposedly under a democratic government that must respect fundamental rights,” said Paredes.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report