Peru’s Congress on Monday began debating for the second time in days a bill to bring forward elections in a bid to end weeks of protests that have left dozens dead. The South American country has been embroiled in a political crisis with near-daily street protests since December 7, when then-president Pedro Castillo was arrested after attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree. In seven weeks of demonstrations, 48 people — including one police officer — have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters, according to the Ombudsman’s Office of Peru. The unrest is coming mainly from poor, rural Indigenous people from southern Peru who had identified Castillo as one of their own who would fight to end poverty, racism and inequality. Dozens of roadblocks have been set up by protesters, causing a shortage of food and fuel in some southern areas. President Dina Boluarte has urged Congress to act, warning that otherwise she will seek constitutional reform to make a vote happen. Last month lawmakers moved up elections due in 2026 to April 2024, but as protests show no sign of abating, Boluarte now wants them held this year — a call that Congress rejected late on Friday. “Vote for Peru, for the country, by moving the elections up to 2023,” the president said in an address to the nation on Sunday. Lawmakers “have a chance to win the country’s trust,” she said. Last week’s vote on bringing elections forward to October was defeated by 65 votes against with just 45 in favor, and two abstentions. If lawmakers again refuse to advance elections, Boluarte said she will propose a constitutional reform so that a first round of elections will be held in October and a runoff in December. Protesters are demanding immediate elections, Boluarte’s resignation, the dissolution of Congress and a new constitution. In the Lima suburb of Huaycan, hundreds of people marched on Monday chanting: “No more deaths, Dina quit now.” Dozens of soldiers started heading to Ica, some 250 kilometers south of Lima, to support police in clearing roadblocks on the vital Panamericana Sur highway that connects the south to major cities further north. According to a survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, 73 percent of Peruvians are calling for elections this year. Monday’s reconvening of Congress will coincide with the wake of Victor Santisteban, 55, a demonstrator who died Saturday after receiving blunt force trauma to his head, according to a medical report. Santisteban was the first recorded death from the protests in Peru’s capital Lima since nationwide demonstrations kicked off in December with Castillo supporters blocking highways, causing shortages of food, fuel and other basic supplies. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, Saturday’s protest in Lima saw at least seven others wounded and hospitalised, after police deployed tear gas against protesters flinging stones and cement pieces. Geronimo Lopez, leader of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers, said protesters would “not cease their struggle” if Boluarte does not step down. He called for a national march for Tuesday under the slogan “Dina resigns now.” But Boluarte, who as Castillo’s vice president was constitutionally mandated to replace him, has insisted that “nobody has any interest in clinging to power.” Analyst Giovanna Penaflor from research firm Imasen told AFP the situation is going to get worse. “Today we are (seeing) an unstoppable number of deaths related to political issues and this cannot continue like this,” Penaflor said. Apart from those who have died in protests, an additional 10 civilians, including two babies, died when they were unable to get medical treatment or medicine due to roadblocks, the Ombudsman’s Office said. The protest movement has affected Peru’s vital tourism industry, even forcing the closure of the world-renowned Machu Picchu Inca citadel ruins.