Peruvian Defense Minister Jorge Chávez on Thursday accused foreigners of trying to stir up separatist sentiment in the country’s south as tensions remain high following the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo last month.
“They entered not only with the intention of inciting violence, but also to integrate this separatist idea of part of our region into the country,” Chavez said at a press conference.
Chávez did not specify the nationality of those who entered the country, but said in an interview with local television on Wednesday that he had reported the presence of five Bolivians at a protest in the border region of Puno.
He said the government was working on legal action against those who allegedly crossed the border in secret.
In Puno and other parts of the south where the left has historically voted, some protest leaders are talking about secession from Lima and northern Peru.
Protests in Peru began in early December after Castillo was removed from office and later detained following an illegal attempt to dissolve Congress.
Crowds took to the streets demanding the resignation of the new president, Dina Boluarte, the closure of the Congress, changes to the constitution, and the release of Castillo. Protests resumed on Wednesday after a lull over the Christmas and New Year period.
Boluarte told local media on Wednesday that she is working with immigration authorities to decide whether former Bolivian President Evo Morales, a vocal critic of Peru’s new government and a Castillo supporter, should be allowed into the country.
Morales, who visited Peru several times during Castillo’s rule, again lashed out on Thursday at Boluarte and the violence during the protests, which have left 22 people dead in clashes and another six in crashes involving road closures.
“Please stop the massacres, illegal detentions, harassment and terrorism charges against our indigenous brothers and sisters,” Morales tweeted, calling for “profound transformation.”
Peruvian Prime Minister Alberto Otarola said Thursday that Peru rejects any attempt at foreign “intervention” and that officials are closely monitoring the border area.