Union leader arrested as protests continue in Peru

Police in Peru announced the arrest of a trade union leader with supposed links to Maoist rebels as roadblocks and protests against President Dina Boluarte continued throughout the country on Friday.

Police said they had arrested Rocio Leandro, a union leader from the south-central Ayacucho region, accused of financing protests and recruiting demonstrators.

Supporters of ousted president Pedro Castillo have marched and barricaded streets around the South American country since December, demanding new elections and the removal of his successor and former vice-president, Boluarte.

The demonstrations have at times turned violent and at least 42 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, including a police officer burned alive in a vehicle, while hundreds more have been injured.

On Thursday, authorities closed air and rail links to Peru's famed Machu Picchu tourist site for the second time as protests flared up leading to clashes with police.

A protest in the border city of Tacna, 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) southeast of Lima, led neighbor Chile to temporarily close the crossing between the two countries.

The city of Arequipa in the south -- the second-largest in the country and one of Peru's main tourist hotspots -- had been practically blocked off from all transport links with the neighboring regions of Cusco and Puno.

Protests and roadblocks have been registered in the capital Lima, and several southern and Andean regions.

Authorities say there are roadblocks in 10 of the country's 25 departments.

Several regional governors and professional associations, including lawyers and teachers, joined the calls for Boluarte to resign.

"How many more deaths will Dina Boluarte's presence in the presidency cost?" asked Puno governor Richard Hancco, whose southern department has become the epicenter of clashes between protesters and security forces.

That region, close to the border with Bolivia, was where 18 people died following violent clashes on Monday night.

"No position can be above human life," said Hancco.

- Ministers resign -

Opposition legislator Susel Paredes told local radio that time was running out for Boluarte and that the resignation of labor minister Eduardo Garcia on Thursday was "the beginning of the end" for the president.

Two other ministers resigned Friday, with the head of the Ministry of the Interior Victor Rojas and the head of the Ministry of Women Grecia Rojas immediately replaced by retired general Vicente Romero and Nancy Tolentino, respectively, at a swearing-in ceremony with Boluarte.

Garcia's replacement Luis Alfonso Adrianzen was also installed.

Prime Minister Alberto Otarola has denied that Boluarte will resign.

Police spokesman Oscar Arriola claimed the arrest of Leandro proved that remnants of the Shining Path Maoist rebels were involved in the protests.

Arriola claimed that Leandro was a former Shining Path member known as "Comrade Cusi."

Peru has been riddled with political instability in recent years.

Boluarte, 60, is the sixth person to hold the presidency in five years.

Castillo, who was being investigated in several fraud cases during his tenure, has been remanded in custody for 18 months, charged with rebellion.

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