In Peru’s capital Lima, massive mobilizations have occurred daily for the past week to demand the resignation of de facto president Dina Boluarte, the closure of the right-wing dominated Congress, early general elections, and a new constitution through a Constituent Assembly. Peaceful mobilizations were also recorded in Piura and Tacna regions.
On Thursday January 26, protesters marched along the Panamerican highway from the north of Lima to Plaza Dos de Mayo and Plaza San Martín. The marches in the capital have seen widespread participation from students and workers in the city, but have been largely composed of the delegations of peasant, Indigenous, and trade union organizations who arrived to Lima from Puno, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, and other regions to bring their demands to the seat of government. The regions which sent delegations have seen high levels of violent repression and high death tolls over the past month so they have also been calling for an end to the brutal police and military repression, justice and reparations for the victims.
The marches in the city center have also been met with violent repression. Day after day, the National Police have deployed hundreds of officers who launch tear gas canisters and fire pellets to disperse the crowd. Dozens, including human rights defenders and journalists, have been injured.
#LIMA | Policía reprime marcha contra Dina Boluarte. En Plaza Bolognesi, agentes impiden el paso de los ciudadanos, lanzan bombas lacrimógenas y disparan perdigones.#ParoNacionalPeru #EstallidoSocial#VocesComunitarias
📷@JuanZapata108 / Wayka pic.twitter.com/p3tj47rgO5
— 🇵🇪 Wayka📢 (@WaykaPeru) January 27, 2023
Boluarte calls for truce, but continues repression
On January 25, the de facto government extended the curfew in the Puno department for 10 days, while increasing militarization of the region. The measure is a part of a 30-day-long state of emergency imposed on January 14, in Puno, Lima, and Cusco, among other parts. The decision came one day after Boluarte called for a national truce and urged the protesters to engage in dialogue, in an address to the nation.
Additionally, on January 26, the Defense and Interior Ministries announced that the National Police and the Armed Forces will carry out an operation to unblock the roads and highways that have been blocked by protesters across Peru as a measure of protest.
“We call on those who persist in these illegal measures to desist from it, allow the peaceful unblocking of the roads and avoid confrontations with the forces of order that will act in defense of legality,” the ministries said in an official statement.
Meanwhile, on Friday, January 27, Boluarte supported a bill presented the day before by far-right congressman Hernando Guerra García to advance general elections to December 2023. On Tuesday, in her address, she said that she would ask Congress for an earlier election date. On December 20, 2022, Peru’s Congress approved a bill to advance general elections to April 2024, and to conclude the presidential and legislative terms in July of the same year. The protesters are demanding that the elections are brought forward and organized in 2023.
The left-wing Free Peru party, in a statement on January 27, endorsed holding new elections, but also advocated holding a referendum for the Constituent Assembly.
“These roles and power relations, between those who govern and those governed, are reflected in the Political Constitution of each country, which is why we must change the current Political Constitution of Peru. The new Constitution must be born from a Constituent Assembly, where the people participate, propose, project and approve their laws that should govern society, seeking the well-being of all and not of the small minority,” said Free Peru.
Human rights violations in Peru
The National Human Rights Coordinator of Peru (CNDDHH), on January 26, presented a report on the extensive human rights violations committed by the security forces in the past 50 days of social protests. The report noted that 56 people, including seven minors, were killed and 912 people were injured in the past one and a half months. The report highlighted that of the fatal victims, 46 died “due to the direct responsibility of the state.”
The report documented the cases of extrajudicial executions that were committed in social protests, the use of prohibited weapons such as AKM rifles, by State agents, which denies the official version that “the protesters killed each other.”
Torture by the police was also documented and they highlighted a case from Andahuaylas, when a group of 8 people were detained on December 12 and were brutally beaten during their imprisonment.
The CNDDHH also warned that massive arbitrary detentions have been taking place. It reported that at the National University of San Marcos alone, 193 people were detained. It also reported that the authorities are using accusations of terrorism against those who mobilize, and the police are hindering the defense process of the detainees as well as the journalistic work.
Boluarte’s conflict with Honduras, and other neighboring countries
Despite the report and without critical reflection of its actions, on January 26, the Boluarte government withdrew the ambassador of Peru in Honduras after Honduran President Xiomara Castro expressed her concerns about the crisis in Peru.
The Peruvian Foreign Ministry explained, in a tweet, that the measure was taken “in response to the unacceptable interference in internal affairs of President Xiomara Castro in her speech at CELAC, ignoring the constitutional Government of President Dina Boluarte.” The ministry added that the bilateral relations between the two countries will be maintained through the chargé d’affaires.
On January 24, Honduran President Xiomara Castro, during her speech at the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), condemned the legislative coup in Peru and expressed her solidarity with ousted President Pedro Castillo, calling him “legitimate, elected” president and demanding his “immediate release.”
In addition to Castro, Bolivian President Luis Arce, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, Colombian President Gustavo Petro, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also criticized the brutal repression of the social protests and human rights violations in Peru.
On January 25, the ministry announced that it would call the ambassadors of Peru in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico for consultation, due to the “interference in internal affairs by the highest authorities of the aforementioned countries.” It also conveyed to the Chilean Ambassador the discontentment of the Peruvian government with President Boric’s statements at CELAC, describing them “disrespectful towards President Dina Boluarte.”
At the same time, the plenary session of Congress, with 74 votes in favor, 40 against and 4 abstentions, approved a motion declaring former Bolivian President Evo Morales a ‘persona non grata’ and prohibited him from entering Peru, considering that he makes statements and demonstrations that allege to be interference in Peruvian internal affairs.
The move to endanger diplomatic ties across the region has been widely condemned by leaders.
Condemnation of Boluarte regime at CELAC summit
Peru was a central topic of discussion at the CELAC summit, despite not making it into the final declaration.
President Arce said that “Bolivia is respectful, like all CELAC States, of International Law and non-interference in the internal affairs of states,” but added that “we cannot simply ignore a situation such as the serious political and social crisis that our brotherly people in Peru are experiencing.” He urged that the institutions of the Peruvian State work together with its people to “take the path of understanding to recover social and political peace in the country.”
President Boric asked the Boluarte government for a “change of course” in the face of the “unacceptable repression and violence.” “We cannot be indifferent when today in our sister nation of Peru, with the government under the command of Dina Boluarte, people who go out to march and claim what they consider fair end up being shot by those who should defend them,” said Boric.
President Petro also demanded the immediate release of Castillo, calling for an agreement on the basis of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect popularly elected heads of state who remain deprived of their liberty. “Why do we have to continue maintaining violations of the Inter-American system despite the fact that our governments signed the treaty in the past? Why do there have to be parliamentary and violent coups? Why are popularly elected presidents today in prison when they should be here at this table? Why are the political rights of any citizen violated by administrative and parliamentary authorities? when the letter that we all signed in 1972 does not allow the political rights of any citizen to be violated,” maintained Petro.
Similarly, President AMLO, in a video message sent to the summit, called for cessation of repression in Peru and the freedom of Castillo. “We must not leave the brotherly people of Peru alone, what they did with Pedro Castillo and the way in which they are repressing the people was an infamy. A communiqué must be jointly signed to demand that the repression cease, that dialogue be opened, that it be the people who decide in democracy, that is, in clean, free elections, about the destiny of Peru. No to authoritarianism and freedom to Pedro Castillo, because he is unjustly imprisoned,” said AMLO.
Castillo denounces repression, thanks leaders for solidarity in a letter
In a new letter shared on his Twitter account, Castillo denounced the repression and human rights violations committed by the Boluarte regime, and thanked regional leaders for their solidarity and condemnation expressed at the CELAC summit.
“I denounce the human rights violations that are being committed against my indigenous brothers, the repression in the streets by the military dictatorship of Boluarte, claiming more than 60 lives of compatriots and leaving 1,200 wounded. I pray that you raise your voice in all international forums, and do not allow a genuine space for Latin American integration to coexist with the current anti-democratic political regime that is usurping power in Peru today,” said Castillo.
“I appreciate the solidarity of the brother presidents who, in their speech, have kept in mind the human rights violations in Peru. To presidents Gustavo Petro, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya and Andrés Mauel López Obrador, for their firmness in condemning the dictatorship, my arbitrary detention and for demanding the constitutional guarantees of which I continue to be illegally deprived. To the presidents of Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, who expressed their concern about the serious situation in our country,” he added.
Castillo also thanked Morales and expressed his solidarity with him. “My solidarity and gratitude to my brother Evo Morales, politically persecuted by the Boluarte dictatorship, who was prohibited from entering Peru. Evo has been a consistent political leader in defending himself with democracy and denounces the fascist government of Dina Boluarte, responsible for the bloodshed that Peru is mourning today,” he wrote.