Protests and strikes continue in Peru against Dina Boluarte

Social organizations and trade unions have pointed out that Boluarte’s meetings with political leaders and the Congress’ decision to postpone the approval of early elections ratify their intention to remain in power until 2026

February 22, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Peru protests Juliaca massacre
On February 9, in Lima, delegations from the Puno region organized an act to commemorate the 19 victims of the Juliaca massacre, killed at the hands of public security forces on January 9. (Photo: Juan Zapata/Wayka)

On Monday, February 20, thousands of Peruvians once again hit the streets in different parts of the country as a part of a new strike, demanding the resignation of de-facto President Dina Boluarte, closure of the right-wing dominated Congress, advanced general elections this year, and a referendum on a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.

They also continue to demand the immediate release of Pedro Castillo who on December 7, 2022, was illegally ousted in a legislative coup and subsequently arrested.

Trade unions across different sectors in the north regions of the country such as San Martín, La Libertad, Lambayeque and Piura, and the Arequipa region in the south called for a 24-hour strike to demand radical political changes in the country and reject the violent repression unleashed against peaceful protests. Marches and rallies were held in all these regions. Additionally, at least 35 roads and highways were blocked throughout the national territory.

TeleSur’s correspondent Ramiro Angulo reported that Peasant and Indigenous communities from the Puno department had planned to send more delegations to the capital Lima to strengthen the struggle. In January, the delegations composed of peasant, Indigenous, social, and trade union organizations from Puno, Arequipa, Apurímac, Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica and other regions arrived in Lima to bring the voices of Peru’s marginalized communities to the seat of government.

The regions which sent delegations have suffered some of the highest levels of lethal repression and death tolls over the past two months of protests. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, in the past 11 weeks of social uprising, more than 60 people have been killed and over 1,000 injured. Despite heavy repression, the demonstrators have said that they will remain in the streets against the government until their demands are addressed.

Left parties suggest Boluarte’s resignation is the only solution

On February 15, Boluarte began meeting with leaders of political parties to gather support for the approval of a bill on early elections, presented by her on February 1. She has held meetings with Patricia Li, the president of Somos Peru; César Acuña, the president of Alianza para el Progreso; Keiko Fujimori, the defeated far-right politician in the 2021 elections and daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori; among others.

On Monday, she met with Luis Duran Rojo, the leader of the Purple Party. After the meeting, Duran told the local press that Boluarte is determined to continue in office until the parliament defines an eventual advancement of elections. He also reported that his political group reiterated “the request of the citizenry” for her to resign from the presidency.

“We have reiterated our request that she resign from office and we have told her that her resignation could open a new time, because the only thing left would be a call for general elections by Congress…Unfortunately, the president considers that she has a constitutional government, which is so, but that she is not going to resign,” said Duran.

Similarly, Carlos Cuaresma, the leader of the Frente de la Esperanza who also met Boluarte on Monday, proposed to her that her resignation is the only way out of the political and social crisis.

“We did not go to dialogue, we went to be present and tell Dina Boluarte that she was the problem (…) I pointed out to her that the whole crisis was about her resignation and the call for new elections. In order to avoid more deaths, more enmity between Peruvians, more persecution and arrests, and give Peru the opportunity to find itself again, her resignation is indispensable,” he told Exitosa Noticias.

Meanwhile, Roberto Sánchez, president of progressive Together for Peru party, and Vladimir Cerrón, the president of left-wing Free Peru party, have refused to meet Boluarte, condemning her management of the situation and reiterating their call for her resignation, early elections, and a referendum to determine the installation of a constituent assembly. The parties maintained strong ties with the Castillo government and opposed the inauguration of Boluarte after the coup.

The Peruvian Congress has rejected two bills that called for elections to be held in 2023. It is scheduled to debate and vote on at least two more bills on early elections this month. The bill, presented by Boluarte, proposes elections on the second Sunday of October 2023, but it doesn’t call for a referendum.

The general secretary of the Federation of Civil Construction Workers of Peru (FTCCP), Luis Villanueva Carbajal, in an interview with RCR, pointed out that Boluarte’s meetings with politicians and the Congress’ decision to postpone the approval of early elections ratify their intention to remain in power until 2026.

“It is all part of a strategy. They have designed a plan to stay until 2026. When I say they, I mean the Executive and the parliamentarians. They are insensitive to the demands of the people. They are ignoring the fact that more than 60% of the population want early elections and for them all to leave immediately. The President of the Republic regrets that she is in a difficult position, she continues to maintain that she is not going to resign despite not only the high disapproval rating but also the reports from international organizations pointing out human rights violations committed under her governance,” said Villanueva.

Congress approves constitutional complaint against Castillo

While the right-wing majority Congress has been reluctant in advancing general elections, it didn’t miss the opportunity to continue attacking Castillo. Last Friday, on February 17, the plenary session of Congress, with 9 votes in favor, 23 against and 3 abstentions, approved the constitutional complaint presented by National Prosecutor Patricia Benavides against Castillo, formalizing the accusation of alleged commission of the crimes of criminal organization, influence peddling and collusion against him.

The Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating Castillo for alleged crimes of corruption, personal concealment against the administration of justice, and plagiarism in his master’s thesis.

Castillo has been imprisoned in the Barbadillo prison in Lima for over two months. After he tried to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, he was swiftly removed from the presidency for allegedly “breaching constitutional order” and arrested. The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating him for the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy, abuse of authority and public disturbance for announcing the dissolution of Congress.

Days following his forcible removal and illegal arrest, on December 12, 2022, the Congress approved a bill to deprive Castillo of his presidential immunity, enabling the Prosecutor’s Office to criminally prosecute him. On December 15, 2022, the Peruvian judiciary, controlled by the oligarchy, accepted the Prosecutor’s Office’s request for the extension of Castillo’s preventive detention to 18 months.