Peruvian President Castillo backed into a corner amid fuel-hike protests

Castillo is facing criticism from left and right sectors and even went back on imposing a curfew in response to the truckers’ strike

April 06, 2022 by Brasil de Fato
Transportation workers in Ucayali block the roads in response to increase in fuel costs. Photo: Diario Ímpetu

Peru’s President Pedro Castillo on Tuesday April 5 suspended the decree he signed hours earlier that imposed a curfew in the capital Lima and the district of Callao. The measure was taken after a meeting with the Congress’ Board of Directors.

“I must inform you that as of now we are going to cancel the curfew, it is up to the Peruvian people to calm down,” Castillo said.

Faced with a truckers’ protest over skyrocketing fuel prices, Castillo had decreed a curfew after more than a week’s strike, with episodes of road blockages, looting and destruction of private property.

Part of the population, however, did not accept the order and took to the streets anyway. The protesters even stayed just one block away from the Congress while Castillo was on site, but were pushed back by police forces.

“They came out [to the streets] in the richest and most affluent neighborhoods, white families with the Peru soccer jersey, raising a chauvinistic nationalism, protesting against a supposed dictatorship. This formula we already know from Brazil, in Bolivia”, says José Carlos Llerena, activist from La Junta, to Brasil de Fato.

Llerena points out that there is a legitimate discontent with the price increases and cost of living, and that Castillo was wrong not to try to deal with this problem immediately, but he stresses that the right wing is now trying to take advantage of the discontent to promote its “coup strategy”.

On Wednesday, the traditional Peruvian newspaper El Comercio calls for Castillo’s resignation in an editorial: “The main responsible for the drift in which the country finds itself is Pedro Castillo. At this point, his incompetence already seems incorrigible; his presidency, untenable, and his resignation, the best way out,” argues the newspaper.

In addition to the four deaths already recorded during the protests, 11 other people were injured on Tuesday April 5. According to the Peruvian Ministry of Health, of the total number of injured, five are civilians and six are members of the Peruvian police.

Castillo, who has already suffered two impeachment attempts and has reshuffled his cabinet of ministers several times, has been criticized by sectors of the left for his stance. Former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza, whose political group has broken with the president, attacked Castillo.

“The government has not only betrayed its promises of change, but is now repeating the right-wing method of ‘conflict resolution’: ignoring those who mobilize in legitimate dissatisfaction with the economic and political situation, repressing, criminalizing and restricting rights,” Mendoza said.

This article first appeared in Portuguese in Brasil de Fato.