Democrats are calling on Biden to halt security assistance to Peru due to human rights abuses, including the deaths of more than 50 civilians.

A group of House Democrats wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to stop providing security assistance to the government of Peru and denounce human rights violations committed by state security forces.

The letter, signed by 20 mostly progressive Democrats, argued that funding should resume only when the administration confirms to members of Congress that the crackdown is over and effective steps are being taken to ensure justice and accountability.

The crackdown on anti-government protesters has resulted in the deaths of more than 50 civilians and numerous reports of abuse.

“In light of the worsening political and human rights situation, we implore you to publicly denounce these ongoing human rights violations and to exert pressure on the Peruvian government to uphold the rights to peaceful protest and due process,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by many progressive Latino members of Congress, including Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García, Raúl Grijalva, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Juan Vargas, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Nydia Velázquez and Delia Ramirez.

An anti-government protester challenges police surrounding the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru on Jan. 21, 2023. Image: (Martin Mejia/AP)

An anti-government protester challenges police surrounding the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru on Jan. 21, 2023. Image: (Martin Mejia/AP)

The letter from members of Congress described a raid on student dormitories at San Marcos University in Lima, where there were “due process violations and disproportionate use of force.”

“While acknowledging that a small number of protesters have participated in violent acts, Boluarte’s government has a responsibility to distinguish criminals from peaceful protesters and to protect those who participate lawfully,” the letter read.

“Instead, the security forces responded indiscriminately with almost no regard for the human rights of the protesters. Rather than working to reduce tensions, the Boluarte government has substantially increased tensions, including classifying protesters as “terrorists” and limiting citizens’ right of movement,” the letter continues.

The South American country of about 34 million has been wracked by unrest since the ousting and arrest of leftist President Pedro Castillo in December after he illegally attempted to shut down Congress to avoid impeachment. Its vice president, Dina Boluarte, ascended to the presidency.

The effects of the pandemic have worsened the economic situation and access to basic services for those outside the capital, Lima.

Castillo, the son of farmers and a former teacher, had pledged during his campaign to help the rural poor and indigenous groups, often not represented in Peruvian politics. Castillo’s arrest outraged many and led to nationwide protests that turned into demonstrations against disenfranchisement.

Boluarte responded by cracking down on protesters, imposing curfews in some cities and suspending some civil liberties.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Boluarte and Congress and want elections to be held this year. Congress has narrowly agreed to discuss a proposal to hold an election in October, after initially rejecting it on Friday.

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