What Lies in the Balance for Peru

By Gustavo A Maranges, published on Resumen, December 20, 2022

The political situation in Peru appears to be spinning out of control with no end in sight as violent repression on an angry population, who feel their democracy has been pulled out from under them, escalates. A jailed president now imprisoned, the military and the police swarming on the streets, road blockades, increasing protests against Dina Boluarte and the Congress, and 25 deaths have been the balance of a parliamentary coup d’état, whose gestation began even before Pedro Castillo won the elections just 17 months ago.

The mainstream media coming from the corporate world is that the saturation in Peru is the result of Castillo’s attempts to dissolve the Congress, but that is nothing but a cover; the reality is much more complex than what we’ve been told. The fact is that Castillo didn’t have a single day off since the legislature declared war on him even before day one of his presidency. Three vacancy attempts based on “moral incapacity”, two trips to international summits denied, corruption charges only months after taking office, and judicial persecution of his family members, have been some of the ammo used in this war by those who claim to defend “democracy” in Peru at gunpoint.

As a Latin American, I would like to say all this is new, that it has never happened before in our region mostly because it would mean thousands fewer dead and much happier stories. However, history has gone oppositely.

What is happening today in Peru is something sadly common in Latin America. It is the extremist oligarchies’ solution when they feel threatened after being defeated by the weight of the popular vote. In the past, it was the military who stood up for them. Nowadays, the front line is made by parliaments or courts, which are backed by the military and instigated by the same old power with their trainers from the North creating the script and the training.

It is impossible to avoid déjà vu when analyzing the situation in Peru since only three years ago something similar happened in Bolivia, illustrating this is not a matter of luck but the confirmation of the new modus operandi of the regional right-wing in coordination with its northern sponsors.

Today, 13 days after the coup d’état against Castillo took place, the repression unleashed by his former Vice President Dina Boluarte has resulted in the death of 25 people (5 of them in a traffic accident related to the road blockade), all of them civilians, seven victims were between 15 and 18 years old, while only six were over 30.

On the other hand, about 80% of these deaths, as well as the strongest protests, have taken place in the Andean south, the country’s poorest region. This is no coincidence, since these areas were Castillo’s stronghold, as he represented poor people’s only hope for change.

There is not a 100% match between rejecting the parliamentary coup d’état and standing by Pedro Castillo. However, the links are strong since demonstrators’ demands match the ousted president’s intentions, namely: dissolution of Congress, ousting Dina Boluarte from the presidency, and a new Constitution away from the backward one that came into existence in 1993 under the Fujimori regime.

The police and the army continue to repress the demonstrators with real bullets. So it seems like some sort of sadistic joke when Defense Minister Luis Alberto Otarola claims not to be responsible for the murders or when the coup president Dina Boluarte calls to respect Human Rights while allowing the population to be massacred. In regards to this the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) began today a visit to the country to investigate the facts, as if 20 deaths, several of them with army bullets, were not enough to determine who is responsible.

Likewise, there are 300 injured law enforcement officers, and there have been acts of vandalism against public and private property. These things happen but they are in no way comparable to the violence unleashed by the government. The statistics speak for themselves of the great asymmetry in this war.

Surely, the police have started their own investigations to look for those who burned and destroyed things, while showing indifference towards the 20 civilians killed during the protests. Evidently, it is less urgent to look for criminals if they are on the government and police side.

The regional denunciation against the break of the democratic order in Peru has been led by Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia, which signed a letter condemning the harassment that forced Pedro Castillo to make a wrong decision. Faced with these statements, the coup president said she did not accept foreign interference. Such a curious thing! She apparently forgot to include the United States in the list, especially their current ambassador in Lima and former CIA agent Lisa Kenna who appears to now be Washington’s chosen puppeteer after she met the then-Minister of Defense the same day of the coup and seemingly was the last one to talk to Pedro Castillo before his arrest.

In this context, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) extended his offer of political asylum to President Pedro Castillo and all those suffering from political persecution in Peru. For his part, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, expressed his concern for the political crisis in the South American country. It seems like the UN has only recently become aware of this 17-month-old crisis.

The future remains uncertain, and it is very unlikely the situation will improve in the short term. Just recall Bolivia’s case, where it was necessary to send repressive armament from Argentina (under Macri’s government) and Ecuador (Guillermo Lasso administration) to pacify the people while leaving dozens of dead and wounded along the way.

Early elections seem to be the quickest way out, but Congress is in no hurry as they feel as a block that things are going their way back down the Fujimori rabbit hole at the expense of a growing number of lives from the most humble sectors and the popular movements. However events are fluid and the relationship of forces is not completely defined, as it will remain, for as long as the people stay in motion in the streets.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US

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