By Gustavo A. Maranges – Feb 14, 2023
It has been two months since Dina Boluarte took over Peru’s presidency after a coup d’état designed very well by the conservative elite and executed by the Congress and the military. Since then, at least 64 people have been killed in police repression of protests across the country. That is more than one death per day, a chilling statistic that shows how people reject the current administration and how serious the present crisis is.
According to the Peruvian Ombudsperson’s Office, some 47 of those killed are civilians, and 50 have been shot dead, mostly by the army and the police. Meanwhile, hundreds have been wounded, several of them minors, as well as 59 journalists to date.
Based on these facts and additional evidence, the Argentinean NGO International Human Rights Solidarity Mission stated they will accuse Boluarte of crimes against humanity. The organization reported that 19 collaborators have collected testimonial and graphic evidence proving that several demonstrators were extrajudicially killed, among them six out of the 10 people assassinated at the Ayacucho airport.
After Pedro Castillo was ousted, the streets flooded with demonstrators demanding Boluarte’s resignation, dissolution of Congress, and a Constituent Assembly to replace the current 1993 Constitution passed by Alberto Fujimori’s dictatorship. These seem to be fair demands from a people tired of being ignored by the elite and exhausted by the effects of economic and political crises that have led to six presidents in five years. However, these demands are unacceptable for an oligarchy willing to do anything to stay in power.
Since the beginning of the protests, the coup government has extended the state of emergency several times, arguing that these are not peaceful protests but covert actions of criminal groups and drug traffickers. However, lies get exposed sooner or later, and just two days ago, Peruvian Foreign Affairs Minister Ana Celina Gervasi told the New York Times that the government has no evidence to back up these statements.
This is a clear case of the criminalization of social protest for political purposes. Of course, all the required evidence will be manufactured to delegitimize the people’s demands, and the Peruvian government’s impudence is astonishing. Sadly, this is nothing new, it is rather a very archaic method of the Latin American right wing that destroys and divides societies. Colombia is probably the best example of how disastrous these practices are and how much it can cost to repair the damage caused.
Despite this, Boluarte’s government allocated $25 million more to “install law and order” on Lima’s streets. Many would think that 64 deaths are more than enough to rethink that strategy, but the fact is that spreading terror and violence as methods to control people’s unrest is the strategy itself. Just the same style as the Latin American dictatorships of the previous century.
However, the state terrorism strategy does not seem to be yielding the expected results. The increase in military violence has only plunged the country into an endless spiral of hatred. What began as political protests have turned into a massive social protest joined not only by Castillo’s supporters but also by unions and social movements that, beyond sympathizing or not with the ousted president, pursue the same objectives: to reduce the almost absolute control of the elite over the state.
As a result of it, today, almost all the country’s principal roads are blocked. In some regions, local authorities have had to negotiate with the demonstrators to supply some areas with basic products. Meanwhile the southern part of the country, the main copper mining area, has reduced production by almost 30%, and in the agricultural sector, the losses exceed $300 million.
In this scenario, some local and regional authorities have come out in favor of the protesters and criticized the central government’s poor crisis management. This is not political support for the protests at all. However, it is the first sign of how strong the popular pressure is and the cracks that it is creating in the governmental structures of Peru.
Possible solutions to the crisis
So far, the only way to ease tensions proposed by the government is to hold early elections. It is acceptable to the right-wing since it does not imply profound modifications, and maintains the status quo. However, the date must be approved by Congress, where there is currently a great deal of debate. While the conservative sectors are desperately looking for a date to ease tensions on the streets, another group led by the Peru Libre party is looking for a solution closer to the people’s demands of early elections and a new Constitution.
The debate on the date and conditions of the next elections will extend until February 17. If nothing is agreed upon, it is practically impossible to hold elections in 2023, which would only prolong the current crisis.
It is clear to all that a national dialogue with all sectors is the best solution. However, the government and its supporters are not willing to give in to a single one of the protesters’ demands and have once again bet on violence and state terrorism to remain in power.
(Resumen Latinoamericano – English)
Gustavo A. Maranges
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