Peru’s de facto president blames protesters for their own deaths at the hands of state forces

Boluarte condemned the fresh wave of protests and blamed social organizations for creating violence and chaos in the country.

June 16, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Peru’s de facto president Dina Boluarte rejected the call for new social protests against her government on June 14. (Photo: Twitter)

Peru’s de facto president Dina Boluarte, on Wednesday, June 14, expressed her annoyance over the announcement of new social protests against her government. Talking to the local press, after attending a bilateral meeting with Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in Piura, Boluarte once again stigmatized social organizations and their struggle and blamed them for creating violence and chaos in the country.

Boluarte’s statement came after social movements and trade unions called for a third massive march in the capital, known as the ‘Toma de Lima’ or ‘Takeover of Lima’, to demand her resignation, closure of right-wing dominated Congress, new general elections, and a new constitution. The march will be held on July 19, for which thousands of members of Indigenous and peasant communities as well as diverse social organizations and trade unions from all regions of Peru are expected to arrive in Lima.

In a press conference held after the Council of Ministers meeting on June 15, Boluarte addressed one of protesters’ primary demands and told the press that, “The idea of holding early elections is over. We will continue working responsibly, respecting the rule of law, democracy, and the constitution, until July 2026.”

Boluarte said that during the first six months of her government, she has had to constantly face “violent” demonstrations and criticized organizations for calling new protests.

“In the six months that we have been in government, we have practically been firefighters putting out almost 500 violent demonstrations. Right now, I call on these people who are once again announcing a third takeover of Lima or the third takeover of Peru, how many more deaths do they want? Doesn’t it hurt your souls to have lost more than 60 people in these violent mobilizations,” said Boluarte.

In addition, she denied that the deaths in the protests were caused or sought by her government, ignoring the report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which confirmed that the Peruvian state committed human rights violations during the anti-government protests that broke out following the legislative coup against former left-wing president Pedro Castillo in December 2022 and continued till February 2023. She said that the deaths caused in protests only served to “benefit” the people who were asking for her resignation.

“Right now, they are not satisfied with the fact that I have not resigned. They are still asking for it and want to use the Peruvian population to continue generating anxiety, violence, chaos, crisis. Where else are we going to go to now?,” she said.

The IACHR, in its report released in early May, noted that 57 people died in these protests, and said that response to the demonstrators by state forces was characterized by the “disproportionate, indiscriminate and lethal use of force.” It added that in some cases, the actions could be classified as “extrajudicial executions” and “massacres.”

Peru’s Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating Boluarte, along with some of her ministers and police chiefs, for the alleged crimes of genocide, homicide, and serious injuries. On June 6, she appeared before the Prosecutor’s Office to respond to the accusations against her. She denied her responsibility for the crimes charged against her, and protected herself by using the right to remain silent.

In addition, Boluarte has lashed out at opposition leaders -without mentioning any by name- for disapproving of her management before international organizations.

“These people who traveled to Europe, with a false narrative, speak ill of Peru. Shouldn’t that be classified as treason against the homeland? Who finances their trips so that they pass across Europe speaking ill of Peru?,” she said.

“We are working without stealing from the people! Why don’t they say that out there instead of lying [saying] that we are a civil-military government?…We are a democratic government,” she added.

She was implicitly referring to former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza, who participated last week along with various other progressive leaders from the region in the second edition of Latin America Day held in the European Parliament.

During her speech, Mendoza mentioned that “June 7 marked six months since the civil-military regime headed by Mrs. Boluarte began,” who she said was the visible face of a “conservative and mafia-like authoritarian coalition.”

The Boluarte government has been highly unpopular since the day it assumed power. People have condemned the de facto leader for betraying the progressive ticket she was elected on after she entered into a political alliance with the country’s right-wing forces to govern. According to a new survey conducted by the IPSOS Peru, 77% of the Peruvian citizens disapprove of the Boluarte administration, and 81% reject the performance of the Congress.