July 28th 2023 marked the 202nd anniversary of the liberation of Perú from Spanish colonial rule by José de San Martin. Typically, the country would be celebrating its Fiestas Patrias in grand style with parades and parties that last several days. This year, the mood is somber because the Peruvian masses believe there is nothing to celebrate. Families of the martyrs of the Dina Boluarte coup regime and their supporters marked the day by gathering outside Congress while the de facto leader gave perhaps the longest speech in recent Peruvian history. On behalf of the state, Boluarte apologized to the families of those killed during protests.
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), on Monday, May 15, once again refused to hand over the pro tempore presidency of the Pacific Alliance to Peru’s de facto president of Peru, Dina Boluarte. President AMLO said that there was a consensus between Mexico, Colombia and Chile not to give the presidency of the alliance to Peru. “There are four countries [in the bloc]: Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru. And the opinion of the president of Colombia is similar to mine and the president of Chile. He is [also] not interested in giving Peru the presidency of this group called the Pacific Alliance… We can hand it over to Chile, to Colombia and let them decide what they [want to] do
On April 13, US Ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna posted a photo with the Peruvian Attorney General Patricia Benavides on her personal Twitter account. She added that the two had a meeting to discuss “the importance of moving forward with investigations of incidents of violence and human rights cases in recent months”. This tweet is further evidence to not only the role played by the US embassy in the coup d’état against President Pedro Castillo Terrones on December 7, 2022, but also a long history of US interventionism in the justice system of our country. It also shows that today, in a period of multi-polar transition, is extremely strategic for the US to take care of its “Backyard” and give continuity to the Monroe Doctrine.
A study by a leading polling firm in Peru found that the country’s coup-plotting congress has an approval rating of just 6%, with a staggering 91% disapproval. The South American nation’s unelected president, Dina Boluarte, has the approval of just 15% of Peruvians, with 78% disapproval. In December 2022, Peru’s democratically elected leftist President Pedro Castillo was overthrown in a congressional coup. The military arrested him, and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, without due process. The US ambassador in Peru, Lisa Kenna, is a CIA veteran who strongly supported the coup against Castillo, and has collaborated closely with Boluarte.
On Thursday March 30, Peruvian legislators from the parliamentary benches of progressive Free Peru, Democratic Peru and Democratic Change-Together for Peru political parties presented in Congress a vacancy motion against the de-facto President Dina Boluarte for “permanent moral incapacity” to continue in office. The left-wing legislators condemned Boluarte for unleashing brutal police and military repression against peaceful protesters during the past four months of protests against her government. The legislators pointed out that at least 49 protesters have been killed in these months at the hands of public security forces.
On Tuesday, February 7, El Salto published an exclusive interview with Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. Castillo has been detained for two months since being ousted by congress, which immediately placed Dina Boluarte in power. In the interview, Castillo stressed that he did not want to obey “social and economic power groups… putting the people above all else.” From the moment of his irregular arrest, protests began in Peru. More than 60 deaths have occurred due to the repression ordered by Boluarte, plunging the country into a deep and violent political and institutional crisis. The discontent manifested in various areas of Peru and has moved to the capital, Lima. Protesters are demanding Boluarte’s resignation, early elections and the constituent assembly that Castillo had promised.
Unfulfilled campaign promises, accusations of corruption, and even an attempted self-coup cannot turn the many supporters of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo against him. The president has probably ceased to represent hopes for change, but he still symbolizes —perhaps more now than ever— structural discrimination in Peru. In Lima, the political, economic, and intellectual elites are intrigued. They wonder why the majority of Peruvians in the streets are demanding Castillo’s release. They are even more disconcerted by the minority that insists he be reinstated. It is not surprising that the ruling class is disoriented. For decades they have been isolated from the rest of the country, moving about comfortably in Lima’s de facto Apartheid, perpetuating a dynamic that tends to dehumanize Indigenous, working-class Peruvians.
The decision to change the electoral calendar came following the call for further intensification of nationwide protests demanding the release and reinstatement of ousted left-wing President Pedro Castillo, the resignation of the de-facto President Dina Boluarte, the dissolution of the right-wing dominated unicameral Congress, fresh parliamentary elections, and the establishment of a Constituent Assembly to change the country’s 1993 Constitution. On Monday, December 19, several Indigenous, peasant, and social movements from Apurímac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, and Puno regions, among others, called on the citizens to strengthen strikes and reinforce roadblocks across the country, beginning December 20. The legislators of the left-wing Free Peru party, which sponsored Castillo’s presidential candidacy in 2021, voted against the bill and insisted on their demand to call for Constituent Assembly elections alongside the next general elections.
“You’re probably wondering who paid me to be here,” a man in his 40s, from the southern Andean province of Ica, said to me. “Well, no one paid me to be here. We are doing this because our hearts are with the homeland, because I want my Peru to change, because a government that was trying to do this was unjustly overthrown.” Luis Alberto (name changed) is one of hundreds of Peruvians who traveled to Peru’s capital, leaving behind his home and his employment, to protest the coup against Pedro Castillo as well as his detention, which took place on December 7, 2022. We met outside the Barbadillo Prison in the eastern part of Lima. This prison is where constitutional president Pedro Castillo is being held in pre-trial detention, which was just extended to 18 months by a judge on Thursday, December 15.
In just over six years, Peru has had seven different presidents. The period between July 2016 and December 2022 has been a time of deep political instability. This chaos is largely due to Peru’s deeply undemocratic constitution, which was inherited from the far-right US-backed dictator Alberto Fujimori, who governed the country with an iron fist from 1990 until 2000, committing genocide against the Indigenous population and killing, torturing, and disappearing thousands of dissidents. Article 113 of Peru’s constitution gives the unicameral congress the ability to remove presidents if two-thirds of members vote to declare that they have a “moral incapacity.”
The US ambassador in Peru, a veteran CIA agent named Lisa Kenna, met with the country’s defense minister just one day before democratically elected left-wing President Pedro Castillo was overthrown in a coup d’etat and imprisoned without trial. Peru’s defense minister, a retired brigadier general, ordered the military to turn against Castillo. The coup set off mass protests all across Peru. The unelected regime has unleashed brutal violence, and police have killed numerous demonstrators. Meanwhile, the US government has staunchly supported Peru’s unelected coup regime, which declared a nation-wide “state of emergency” and deployed the military to the streets in an attempt to crush the protests.
Regardless of Castillo presidency’s evident shortcomings and mistakes, his ouster represents a grave setback for democracy in Peru and Latin America as a whole. His election last year took place on the back of an almighty crisis of credibility and legitimacy of a political system rigged with corruption and venality in which presidents were forced to resign on corruption charges (some ended in prison), with one committing suicide before being arrested on corruption charges. In the last six years Peru has had six presidents. The rot was so advanced that no mainstream political party or politician could muster sufficient electoral support to succeed in winning the presidency in 2021 (the main right-wing party, Fuerza Popular’s candidate got less than 14% of the vote in the first round).
Since December 7, tens of thousands of citizens have been protesting in different parts of Peru against the ouster of democratically elected left-wing President Pedro Castillo in a legislative coup carried out by the right-wing dominated unicameral Congress. For the last week, Peruvians have been on the streets demanding that the former President Castillo, who was illegally arrested following his removal from office, be immediately released and reinstated. They are also demanding the effective dissolution of the Congress which currently has an 11% approval rating. The citizens are also demanding that a Constituent Assembly be convened to draft a new constitution to replace the current neoliberal one, which favors the right-wing oligarchy.
On December 7, 2022, Pedro Castillo sat in his office on what would be the last day of his presidency of Peru. His lawyers went over spreadsheets that showed Castillo would triumph over a motion in Congress to remove him. This was going to be the third time that Castillo faced a challenge from the Congress, but his lawyers and advisers—including former Prime Minister Anibal Torres—told him that he held an advantage over the Congress in opinion polls (his approval rating had risen to 31 percent, while that of the Congress was just about 10 percent). Castillo had been under immense pressure for the past year from an oligarchy that disliked this former teacher. In a surprise move, he announced to the press on December 7 that he was going to “temporarily dissolve the Congress” and “[establish] an exceptional emergency government.”
The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia released a joint statement supporting Peru’s democratically elected President Pedro Castillo, saying he is the victim of “anti-democratic harassment.” Castillo was overthrown in a coup d’etat on December 7, led by the infamously corrupt right-wing opposition that controls Peru’s unicameral congress, which has an approval rating of between 7% and 11%. The US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department have openly supported the coup, backing unelected leader Dina Boluarte, who declared herself president in collaboration with the congress. Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia wrote that they “express their profound concern for the recent events that resulted in the removal and detention of José Pedro Castillo Terrones, president of the Republic of Peru.”