About 150 followers of a retired army major seized a police station early today in a remote Andean town, demanding the resignation of President Alejandro Toledo. At least seven people were wounded in a shootout during the takeover.
“This is a military protest and we are willing to lay down our arms and surrender when Toledo resigns from office,” Antauro Humala told Radioprogramas Radio from the captured police station in Andahuaylas, 440 kilometres (275 miles) south of Lima.
Five police officers and two civilians, probably followers of Humala, were being treated for gunshot wounds in the town’s hospital, officials there told Radioprogramas.
Humala said 16 officers were still inside the station, drunk from New Year’s Eve festivities.
National Police Chief Feliz Murazo said reinforcements were on their way to the town to restore order.
Humala is the brother of Ollanta Humala, an army commander stationed in South Korea who the government retired last week.
In October 2000, Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala and his brother led 50 followers in a short-lived military uprising, a month before the collapse of former President Alberto Fujimori’s corruption-ridden, 10-year regime. Antauro Humala had been forced to retire from the army three years earlier.
The revolt failed to spark the wider rebellion the brothers had hoped for in barracks across the nation to establish a xenophobic nationalist indigenous movement modelled on the ancient Inca Empire.
Peru’s Congress granted amnesty to the brothers and their followers, mostly army reservists, in December 2000.
While Ollanta Humala was transferred for overseas duty, Antauro Humala forged a small, but vocal, political movement in his brother’s name that has accused Toledo of selling out Peru to business interests in Chile, an historic rival.
Antauro Humala said today that his brother was en route to Peru to retake leadership of the movement.
Toledo, who took office in July 2001 with popularity of nearly 60%, has tried to disassociate himself from a series of corruption scandals this year involving relatives and members of his Cabinet. His approval rating hovers around 9%.