Long-running political and social tensions in Peru have led to popular unrest and a deadly government crackdown after the arrest of former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo in December ended an attempted coup, with no clear path to political compromise — or End the violence.
The initial outrage and grief surrounding Castillo’s arrest and the ascension of his vice-president, Dina Boluarte, to the country’s top job has morphed into protests across the South American country, reflecting a lack of politics among many Peruvians. Representatives, especially those outside the capital Lima, have felt that for decades.Representative crisis has intensified It has now boiled over in recent years due to the economic impact of the pandemic and lack of access to basic services such as health care and quality education.
Castillo, who remains in prison after the attempted coup, began his political career as a teachers’ union leader. To be elected president in 2021, he He was a potent symbol for disenfranchised Peruvians: from the poor Andean region of Cajamarca, he was a political outsider in the insular world of Lima’s political elite. However, Peru’s recent political history – from the horrific Shining Path rebellion of the 1970s and 1980s to the brutal dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, which still started Peru’s economic engine, to the country’s post-2016 presidency Chaos – has been one of the unstable countries, even though Peru’s economy has improved thanks to its abundance of natural resources such as copper.
All of this has contributed to the current crisis: protesters burning buildings, closing highways, airports, and mines, and encountering police violence; dozens dead and many injured; a stagnant political class clearly unwilling and Unable to respond to the political and economic needs of the Peruvian people.
However, the question of what happens next has no clear answer. Despite calls for new elections, Peru’s Congress on Saturday rejected a proposal to delay elections until December 2023. The left calls for a constitutional convention to rewrite the country’s constitution alongside such elections — a legacy of the Fujimori era that helps to contribute to the current crisis by allowing the president to dissolve Congress and rule by decree — It also failed, although polls now show that 69 percent of Peruvians would support such an effort.
At the heart of the crisis is Peru’s fragmented political system. Zaraí Toledo Orozco, a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University’s Center for Americas Policy and Research (CIPR), said that while much of the country is hungry for change, Peru’s “cAmpesinos,” or the rural poor, who lack representation in national parties that can fight for their priorities. Now, this social and political alienation, compounded by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and And ignited, has evolved into a full-scale conflagration.
Since taking power, Boluarte has imposed curfews in some cities and suspended some civil liberties, such as the rights to assemble and move freely within the country, amid ongoing unrest. As the situation escalated, Some Latin American political leaders, as well as Amnesty International, said Boluarte and Peruvian police forces had crossed the line.
Fujimori’s end didn’t bring vibrant Peruvian democracy
During its history, Peru’s democratic period was mixed with dictatorship and chaos. Most famous among its strongmen is Fujimori, who came to power in 1990 as a populist leader and an outsider. He “comes out of nowhere,” said Max Cameron, a professor of comparative Latin American politics at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Competing with “noble” novelist Mario Vargas-Llosa, Fujimori “seems more of a people’s man,” Cameron said. “He sold some properties, bought a tractor, drove this tractor with a trailer, called it a Fuji, and drove around the shantytowns of Peru, winning the support of the people.”
Fujimori was the first Peruvian leader to really take the Shining Path seriously, which started as a communist guerrilla organization in the 1970s. Starting in the southern Peruvian city of Ayacucho, the group recruited from among Peru’s poor and indigenous population, and is active in some areas where violent protests are now erupting.
The Fujimori government dealt with the Shining Path rebellion by suspending democracy and inflicting brutal state violence against those seen as part of the rebellion or those who sympathized with the rebellion. At the same time, he privatized Peru’s mining companies and took steps to reduce the country’s debilitating inflation. These measures, known as “Fuji shocks,” did turn around an economy that was enacted at a time when macroeconomic policies had until recently produced an economy that withstood political turmoil.
The country’s economic success and Fujimori’s willingness to follow a shining path have earned him such a loyal political following that “Fujimoriism” and “anti-Fujimoriism” are still widely used to describe political positions. Fujimori’s daughter Keiko Fujimori is Still a powerful political force. As Verónica Hurtado, a doctoral student in political science at the University of British Columbia, explained to Vox, the legacy of Fujimori and the Shining Path rebellion has also survived amid political polarization between the government and anyone who dares to criticize its policies.
Right-leaning critics of the protesters have called them terrorists, evoking the deep national trauma of the Shining Path insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s.Maoist rebels killed around 31,000 Peruvians, their actions are still evoked in the concept of Peruvians blueas Simeon Tegel writes in The Washington Post. blueor to discredit opponents by falsely accusing them of terrorism, has sprung up during recent government protests, providing a degree of impunity for the excessive use of force against demonstrators.
Experts told Vox that this political polarization, combined with the social polarization and stratification that dominates Peruvian society, has helped create a political system with no real parties — at least no real ideology. Political power is concentrated in Lima, with few ties to the city and region, with mayors and local organizations and, to a lesser extent, regional governors expected to respond to the needs of ordinary people rather than the central government.
According to Toledo Orozco, Peru is an “empty democracy”. Political parties exist, but only as candidates for office, not as organizations with ideals, policy platforms, and infrastructure. The system created a politics uninterested in change or accountability, but it also helped bring Castillo to power.
“Castillo’s party” — the Liberal Party of Peru — “has never been in government, they have no experience, so if you think Castillo represents the left in Peru, the left has never been in power,” Moisés Arce, a professor of Latin American social sciences at Tulane University, told Vox in an interview earlier this month. “So they don’t have professionals, they don’t have a workforce that can create or produce a good government.”
Peru’s presidency’s chaos dates back to 2016
Since 2016, no Peruvian president has completed a term, and Boluarte is unlikely to complete the remainder of Castillo’s term, which is set to end in 2026. Boluarte has proposed calling new elections two years earlier in 2024, a change Congress gave preliminary approval to last month, despite protesters’ demands for new elections for the president and legislature as soon as possible. Boluarte insists she does not want to stay in office, she is only fulfilling her constitutional duty by remaining in power.
But she managed to cobble together the support of several small right-wing parties that collectively held a majority — angering protesters who believed she was shifting to the right despite her vote as a leftist. However, the legislature approved her government earlier this month in an important vote of confidence despite the turmoil.
Castillo is particularly suited to the post-2016 instability pattern, largely due to his animosity with the Peruvian Congress. The agency has been at odds with the presidency since former finance minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, better known as PPK, unexpectedly defeated Keiko Fujimori in that year’s presidential race. Still, the young Fujimori retained influence and power in Congress, with her party and its allies standing in the way of Kuczynski as he tried to form a cabinet and implement policies. Congress also exercised its power of impeachment with gusto, creating a pattern of animosity between the legislature and executive office that persisted into Castillo’s tenure, as did the corruption scandal that helped unseat PPK.
According to Hurtado, Castillo did not have the tools, experience, infrastructure and expertise to successfully deliver on his campaign promises; however, Hurtado said Congress and the Peruvian political establishment also did hold him back because they did not approve of his Victory – that’s a common complaint among Castillo supporters.
“It’s also frustrating to people that Congress is using impeachment so easily,” Hurtado said, “because before 2016, our policy implementation was not that great … But I believe that people have an understanding that even the least A popular president can also get things done. Some major reforms have been introduced; you can observe that the country is trying to expand its national presence, and major social programs are being implemented. Little seems to have changed since 2016, the original The situation has deteriorated.”
That’s part of why protesters’ calls for Congress to be dissolved resonate so strongly; a recent poll from the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos put Congress at 7 percent and found that Seventy-four percent of respondents favor dissolving the current Congress. But in a relatively new and unstable democracy, especially one where an elected president had previously dissolved Congress and installed an authoritarian regime, there are fears that the absence of such an institution would create a deeper crisis.
The question of where Peru can go from here has no satisfactory answer, experts told Vox, because the state has no real desire or mechanism to engage protesters other than through violence. Despite their material and political demands, the protesters do not have an overarching organization, an umbrella under which they can rally and talk to the government.
Toledo Orozco said that in order to get Peru out of its current predicament, “we need to remove the conflicts, resolve the conflicts and get them back into politics.” But with no leader, organization or even a clear and unified list of demands, the protests remain Fragmented and with no clear lines of communication with the government. As the Boluarte government continues to resort to violence to resolve the protests, observers say the ability to compromise is weakening.
“At the heart of this conflict is that democracy requires more than just economic growth,” Toledo Orozco said. “It needs to come with parties that meet the needs of the masses. Democracies that don’t address representation and don’t take into account the needs of the poorest will ultimately pay the price.”