“the country has been ungovernable for years”

An investigation into “genocide” targeting President Dina Boluarte opened Wednesday in Peru, after the deaths of at least 40 people in the violent suppression of demonstrations that have rocked the country since the December ouster of former President Pedro Castillo. An explosive situation, illustrating the political decline Peru has been in for years.

In Peru, an investigation into “genocide, qualified homicide and serious injury” was opened by the Attorney General of the State, Wednesday, January 11, against President Dina Boluarte and several senior officials, after the bloody repression of demonstrations that demanded their early organization. election.

Another twist in the serious crisis the Andean nation has been in for several years, which has reached its climax since the ouster of Pedro Castillo on December 7. The former president, the candidate from a left-wing coalition elected in 2021, is accused of mutiny after trying to dissolve Parliament seeking to remove him from power.

>> To read: How Peru entered the zone of political upheaval

“Conflict threatened to stall”

At least 40 protesters have been killed and 600 others injured since the outbreak of tensions. On Monday, 17 people died in the Puno department alone, where on Tuesday a policeman was also burnt alive in his vehicle.

The region, the epicenter of the protests, is inhabited primarily by the indigenous Aymara people, an ethnic group of the former president of neighboring Bolivia, Evo Morales. He also expressed his support for the demonstrators and was barred from entering Peru on Monday. He was accused by Peruvian authorities of pushing the south of the country to secede to join Bolivia.

“I fear that a point of no return has been reached, worries Camille Boutron, researcher at the Institute for Strategic Research of the Military School (Irsem) and specialist in Peru. The Attorney General for Homicide certainly testifies to an independent form of justice, but the conflict risks stalling, especially after the deployment such violence. It would be very complicated to calm things down.”

The situation was particularly explosive in Peru, where demonstrators demanded the ouster of the president, who nevertheless belongs to the same political party with Marxist allegiances as his predecessor, the holding of early elections and the drafting of a new Constitution.

A difficult demand for President Dina Boluarte to meet, faced with a Parliament that refuses to be dissolved, a climate of tension that is complicating the holding of new elections, and the political and institutional decline that Peru has endured for years.

Five heads of state in six years

In fact, over the past 32 years, all but two of Peru’s presidents have been jailed or charged with corruption. The country has had no fewer than five different heads of state in the past six years, and successive leaders between 2001 and 2018 have all been corrupted by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

What explains the people’s annoyance, faced with the decadence of its political class. “Peru has been completely ungovernable for years,” analyzes Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, director of the Latin American Observatory of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and associate researcher at the Institute for International Relations and Strategic (Iris). “The president is elected on unrealistic promises and without a majority in Parliament, the deputies are clinging to their places to defend their special interests and hinder any attempt at reform, the police and government are spiraling out of control… We are in a very serious cycle of political and institutional instability.”

(Poorly) elected on a promise to change the Constitution and end corruption, former President Pedro Castillo proved incapable of governing during his year and a half in office. More than 80 ministers succeeded one another under his rule, facing a systematic blockade of a Parliament dominated by the right-wing opposition embodied by the daughter of former President Fujimori (1990-2000), convicted of crimes against humanity.

The “killing game” between the elites

Since the sacking of Pedro Castillo, the horizon seems far from clear. Parliament can indeed withdraw confidence at any time that they finally voted in Dina Boluarte on Tuesday evening – when a curfew was imposed on the Puno department to quell demonstrations calling for his resignation.

“Parliament is caught in a political game where everyone, on the right and on the left, tries to defend his personal interests and those of his party, emphasized Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky. As long as the president does nothing to change things, he will be supported by Parliament, but once he try anything, he’ll be impeached.”

A “killing game” between elites, which has been going on for years and hindering the implementation of structural reforms, however urgent. Peruvian society is plagued by strong social and racial inequalities and deep divisions inherited from the colonial era and civil war (1980-2000), exacerbated by the violence of the Covid-19 epidemic.

“Voters only have a way to express themselves”

“Pedro Castillo was no better than the rest, observes Camille Boutron, but he came from the people, he was a former teacher who enabled the poorest populations, especially blacks and Andes, to feel represented. They now feel abandoned by politicians who spend time they argue and have no desire to make things right.”

Feelings are exacerbated by the absence of political parties, civil society organizations, or trade union structures capable of establishing dialogue between the population and their leaders. “There is no possibility of intermediation between the expectations of the population and its rulers”, lamented Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky. “Voters only have avenues to express themselves. I don’t know how things will develop.”

As an echo of the confusion the country has experienced, neighboring left-wing governments have reacted indiscriminately to recent events. If Brazil and Chile recognized the legitimacy of the new president, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia would condemn the sacking of Pedro Castillo, who had been regularly elected. For its part, the United States called for “restraint” and the use of “minimal” force against the demonstrators, and indicated it supported opening an investigation.

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