protests
Peru: Protesters Call for the Resignation of the President

Riot police fire tear gas at government opponents.  Photo: Guadalupe Pardo/AP/dpa

Riot police fire tear gas at government opponents. Photo

© Guadalupe Pardo/AP/dpa

After the arrest of the former head of state, Dina Boluarte wanted to ensure peace. That went wrong. The former president’s left-wing supporters sense the betrayal and take their frustration to the streets.

The political crisis in Peru is spiraling out of control: protesters and police have once again engaged in serious clashes in anti-government protests across the country. In the capital Lima, officials fired tear gas into the crowd on Friday and government opponents hurled stones, as seen on television. About 11,800 police officers were on duty, Police Chief Victor Zanabria said. Dozens of people have died in Peru since protests began in December.

“I’m sorry for the dead and injured,” the special envoy of the UN human rights commissioner, Christian Salazar Volkmann, said on Friday after a meeting with government officials. “We have also asked the government for information on how they intend to investigate these cases and prevent them in the future.”

Choas days in Peru

In the southern city of Arequipa, protesters tried to storm the airport, the RPP radio station reported. Anti-government officials set fire to a police station in the province of Chucuito. In the Cusco region, protesters set fire to a miners’ camp. The government declared a state of emergency for various regions of the South American country.

The protests are directed against the government of interim president Dina Boluarte. The demonstrators demand the resignation of the head of state, the dissolution of congress and the release of imprisoned former president Pedro Castillo. The former schoolteacher of the town wanted to avoid a vote of no confidence in December and dissolved the congress. Parliament then removed him from office. He was arrested on attempted coup charges and is in custody.

Above all, the indigenous people of the poor south of the country saw the removal as a blow by the old elites of the capital Lima to one of their own. Although Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president, she was later expelled from his Peru Libre party and distanced herself from the left in Congress.

After being sworn in as Peru’s first female president, she quickly indicated that she wanted to stay in office until the end of the 2026 parliamentary term. Many members of Congress supported her plan, likely to keep their seats in parliament longer. In her inaugural speech, the new head of state primarily sought support in Congress rather than trust among the country’s electorate.

It was clear to Castillo’s supporters in the south: Boluarte had stabbed his former boss in the back and was now also betraying the small farmers, day laborers, and indigenous people who had once propelled Castillo to the presidency. Especially for the poor, the former peasant and trade unionist also had great symbolic meaning: he represented rural and indigenous Peru, which always felt despised by the European elites in Peru.

Clashes and political crisis

But the security forces responded brutally to the protests. Seven people lost their lives in Ayacucho before Christmas, something especially bitter in a region where the wounds of the civil war of the 1980s are still fresh. Although Boluarte later backtracked and announced early elections for April 2024, protests broke out again in the new year.

Since then, there have been bloody clashes between protesters and police almost every day. The security forces, in particular, proceed with extreme severity. The state ombudsman felt compelled to issue an official statement to police on Friday, reminding them that torture is prohibited by the constitution.

Peru has been in a permanent political crisis for years. The powerful Congress and government constantly compete for power, and all recent presidents are in prison, have fled abroad, or are under investigation. “Peru is becoming increasingly ungovernable,” writes political scientist Gonzalo Banda in Americas Quarterly magazine. “Democracy survives only by the incompetence of its opponents, not by its strength.”

dpa

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