Peru prosecutor suspended while anti-govt protests spread

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s justice oversight board suspended Attorney General Patricia Benavides amid an anti-corruption probe and as protesters on Thursday called on President Dina Boluarte to resign on the anniversary of her first year in office.

Prosecutors allege that over the last six months, Benavides led a team of officials who were coordinating a scheme in which lawmakers facing criminal investigations could be cleared if they agreed to appoint or dismiss certain judges.

An anti-corruption team from Benavides’ own office has been investigating her and the officials.

In a statement late on Wednesday, the justice board said the six-month suspension was aimed at “preventing obstruction” of the investigation, though it did not give details of the investigation at hand.

Sharply polarized Peru has seen significant political instability in recent years and this probe is the latest in a series of accusations and counter-accusations that have been waged by political and other leaders.

Benavides’ lawyer Juan Pena said on Thursday the accusations against her were false and she would lodge an appeal. Benavides later said in a video that “dark forces” were behind her suspension and dubbed it a “political conspiracy.”

Benavides, who has held the office since June 2022, filed a constitutional complaint last week against President Boluarte for the deaths of more than 50 people during protests that followed predecessor Pedro Castillo’s ouster in late 2022.

She had also filed a complaint in October against Castillo, jailed after illegally trying to dissolve Congress.

Benavides’ successor, who has not yet been announced, could signal a shift in these investigations.

Boluarte, whose approval ratings are at their lowest level since she took over, on Thursday also saw thousands of protesters take to the streets in the capital Lima and other cities to demand her resignation.

“We want to live in peace,” said one woman, who asked not to be named.

The organizers of the protests have also called for more marches on Friday and Saturday.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Additional reporting by Anthony Marina; Writing by Sarah Morland and Isabel Woodford; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Stephen Coates)