Mourners prepare to bury 17 dead in southern Puno region amid protests in the Andean nation, sparked by ouster of ex-president Pedro Castillo.

People take part in a demonstration and ceremony to pay a final tribute to Remo Candia, the leader of the Anta peasant community, at Cusco's main square in Peru.
People take part in a demonstration and ceremony to pay a final tribute to Remo Candia, the leader of the Anta peasant community, at Cusco's main square in Peru. (AFP)

Street barricades and marches against the government have continued in Peru as mourners prepared to bury the bodies of 17 people killed during clashes between security forces and demonstrators in the movement's epicentre.

It comes as trade unions, left-wing parties and social collectives held an afternoon march on Thursday through Lima, the capital, to denounce a "racist and classist ... dictatorship."

Supporters of ousted president Pedro Castillo are demanding new elections and the removal of current leader Dina Boluarte.

They also want to close Congress and set up a body to rewrite the constitution — which was adopted in 1993 under the mandate of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity committed during his presidency.

In capital Lima, thousands took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the new government and president.

"Why are you turning your back on the people, there are so many deaths, for God's sake, stop this massacre," said protester Olga Espejo, calling on President Boluarte to resign.

"Ms. Boluarte, they are using you," she said.

Protesters shouted "Dina asesina!" (Dina is a murderer) as they carried cardboard coffins, photos of the victims and anti-government slogans down the streets of Lima in the capital's first mass protest since New Year.

While Thursday's protest was under way, Labor Minister Eduardo Garcia announced his resignation on Twitter, saying the country needs an apology for the deaths and urged the government to recognise that "mistakes have been made that must be corrected."

READ MORE: Peruvians mourn the dead as anti-government protests continue

Castillo's ouster at the heart of tensions

Protests broke out around the South American country in early December, after Castillo was ousted from office for attempting to dissolve parliament and rule by decree, seeking to prevent an impeachment vote against him.

The demonstrations have at times turned violent, and clashes with security forces have left 41 people dead, including a police officer who was burnt alive in a vehicle.

Almost half of the victims died in clashes on Monday night in the southern Puno region, where 17 people were due to be buried on Thursday.

Important tourism regions such as Cusco and Arequipa have also seen major protests.

The latest protester killed in violent clashes was in the city of Cusco on Wednesday night, where vandals damaged the building of a major hotel chain, torched a bus station, attacked shops and blocked train tracks with large rocks.

Cusco is the former capital of the Inca empire and the gateway city to the jewel of Peruvian tourism: the ancient Inca citadel Machu Picchu.

Peru's rights ombudsman said more than 50 people, including 19 police officers, were injured in the Cusco clashes, while police said they had arrested 11 people.

Road blocks remain in 10 of the country's 25 departments, the transport superintendency said.

Boluarte, 60, was Castillo's vice-president but took over once he was ousted on December 7.

Castillo, who was being investigated in several fraud cases during his tenure, has been remanded in custody for 18 months, charged with rebellion.

READ MORE: Peruvians march with coffins, photos of dead, anti-Boluarte banners

Source: AFP