This handout picture released by the Peruvian Presidency shows Peru's new president, Dina Boluarte, speaking during a Council of Ministers in Lima, on December 12, 2022 Peruvian Presidency via AFP / JHONEL RODRIGUEZ ROBLES

Peru's embattled President Dina Boluarte said Saturday she would not step down in the face of violent protests over her predecessor's ouster as she called on lawmakers to bring forward elections as a way to quell unrest.

"What is solved by my resignation? We will be here, firmly, until Congress determines to bring forward the elections," Boluarte told Peruvians, a day after lawmakers voted against a bill to hold elections next December, more than two years early.

On Friday, House speaker Jose Williams said the vote could be revisited during a forthcoming session of Congress.

The South American nation has been wracked by violent unrest since then-president Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested on December 7 after he attempted to dissolve Congress. At least 18 people have been killed, including minors.

In a televised address to the nation, Boluarte expressed regret for the protests and the deaths, most of which came in clashes with security forces including the military, which has been authorized to impose order under a state of emergency.

If armed troops were on the streets, she said, "it has been to take care of and protect" Peru's citizens because the protests were "overflowing" with violent elements that were coordinated and not spontaneous.

"These groups did not emerge overnight. They had tactically organized to block roads," Boluarte added.

Protesters are calling for the release of the ousted former president Castillo, the resignation of Boluarte and closure of Congress, and immediate general elections.

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