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A curfew in Peru prompts backlash — and questions over presidential leadership

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Just before midnight on Monday, Peru's president, Pedro Castillo, announced a 24-hour curfew in the capital city of Lima. The order was meant to tamp down nationwide protests that started over the rising prices of fuel, food and fertilizer, but the scope of the government's response here came as a bit of a surprise. After widespread discontent, Castillo backtracked on his curfew order within a day, and the protests still continue.

For more, we go now to Jacqueline Fowks, who reports for the newspaper El Pais in Peru. Welcome.

JACQUELINE FOWKS: Thank you.

CHANG: So can you tell us, Jacqueline, what do the protests look like today?

FOWKS: Today is not as complicated as in the previous days, but we don't know certainly what is going to happen in the next days because the most important demands still are there. There have not been so many solutions. Today we are in the - day 12 of the protests in some cities, and, on Saturday, there is going to be another protest in Lima.

CHANG: Well, I'm curious. When President Castillo first imposed this curfew - which has now been rescinded - how did people react to that response?

FOWKS: Well, it was only in Lima and in the main port of the country, in Callao, and a lot of people respected it, but a lot of people didn't want to stay at their homes, so thousands of persons that are looking for the resignation of Castillo went downtown Lima to protest. Yesterday, there was another rally that wasn't asking for the resignation of the president. They were asking the president to fulfill their promises that he made when he was candidate, and if he does not fulfill their campaign promises, then he must quit.

CHANG: These protests began because of rising prices for fuel and for food - these prices that have been rising for quite some time now and have been exacerbated in part by Russia's war in Ukraine. Can you tell us more about how hard this has made life for people in Peru - these rising prices?

FOWKS: Yeah, I think it's important to remember some background about who supported the victory of Pedro Castillo. He won with the very important support of peasant farmers and independent drivers. In Peru, we have a very chaotic system of transportation, so there are thousands of drivers who work on their own, and Pedro Castillo offered these very big groups that he was going to govern for a better living of them. So this has been worsening since August because of the rise of inflation...

CHANG: Right.

FOWKS: ...And it got worse in the two previous months because of the higher price of fertilizers.

CHANG: Well, does Castillo still have powerful supporters? Like, how are they explaining this administration's failures so far?

FOWKS: No, I will say that he has some very important supporters. These rallies that were held in several cities yesterday - they were organized by very important unions of peasants and workers. These are the last supporters he still has, so they were like, remember that we vote for you, so you have to fulfill what you promised.

CHANG: Right.

FOWKS: If not, you will have to go.

CHANG: That is Jacqueline Fowks. Her reporting from Peru appears in the newspaper El Pais. Thank you very much for joining us today.

FOWKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.