More protests in Peru as US calls for 'restraint'

Peru was rocked by further unrest Wednesday as demonstrators blocked roads and held mass funerals for those killed in violent protests that have gripped the country, as the United States called for "restraint" on both sides.

In total 40 people have died in over a month of protests demanding the departure of President Dina Boluarte, who took over after the ouster and arrest of her predecessor Pedro Castillo on December 7.

On Tuesday Peru's prosecutor's office said it was opening a genocide investigation against Boluarte and other top officials as a result of the deaths.

The epicenter of the protests is in the Aymara region of Puno, on the border with Bolivia, where thousands of residents walked the streets of Juliaca with coffins of 17 of those who died during the protests.

Each coffin bore a photograph and a Peruvian flag. "Dina killed me with bullets," read the white coffin of Edgar Huaranca, carried on the shoulders of six family members.

The government has imposed a three-day curfew on the region in a bid to calm the tensions.

Meanwhile a road blockade extended to eight of the country's 25 regions, according to land superintendents.

In the tourist city of Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire, clashes between hundreds of demonstrators and the police left 22 injured, among them six officers, one of whom is in serious condition, reported the health ministry.

The inhabitants were trying to reach the city's airport after mobilizing to demand the president's ouster.

In Arequipa, Peru's second city, hundreds also marched against the government, while in Tacna, on the border with Chile, an indefinite strike began which was marked by episodes of vandalism.

The death toll has brought a rebuke by the United Nations, and a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrived in the country Wednesday to investigate the protests and accusations of political repression.

The United States on Wednesday urged restraint and minimal use of force, and backed an investigation into the dozens of deaths.

"We recognize the right for peaceful protest and expressing grievances through democratic channels, and call for calm, dialogue and for all parties to exercise restraint and non-violence," a State Department spokesperson said.

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