“Supporting this Peruvian struggle is also about supporting those other struggles for social progress and self-determination.”Matt Willgress
By Sam Browse
On Thursday evening, hundreds tuned in to hear an update on the situation in Peru with solidarity speakers including Jeremy Corbyn and Peruvian activist Francesca Emanuele in an online event entitled ‘Peru: Solidarity with the Struggle for Democracy’.
The meeting, organised by Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America, follows a parliamentary coup – initiated by the neoliberals in the congress – which removed and jailed the country’s president, Pedro Castillo, replacing him with Dina Boluarte.
Castillo won last year’s election on a platform of redistribution to the poorest although faced substantial opposition in the right-wing dominated congress, frustrating the implementation of his programme.
Since the removal of Castillo, many of the poorest – including many indigenous people – have taken to the streets to demand that Boluarte resign and that fresh elections be held. They have faced lethal repression, with 48 people killed by security forces and many more injured.
The Chair of the meeting – a long-time supporter of progressive forces in Latin America, Christine Blower – urged the audience to sign the statement of support for democracy and against repression.
Francisco Dominguez, an academic specialist in Latin American affairs told listeners “Peru is a country in crisis because it is dominated by neoliberal policies, run by an oligarchy, and they have a political system I would describe as a Parliamentary dictatorship.
“Pedro Castillo being elected as President was an affront. Throughout his time through the moment of his election to his ousting, the right-wing majority persecuted him.”
Echoing the calls of those on the ground, he called for the immediate and unconditional release of Castillo, immediate elections to parliament, a referendum for a new constitution, and the immediate cessation of the repression.
Francesca Emanuele, a Peruvian activist, said “Peru has had 36 days of brutal repression from the government.” She highlighted the racism in Peru leveraged to oppose Castillo, and the hypocrisy of the congress who claimed to be upholding democracy when they had attempted to undermine last year’s election results from their announcement.
“We Peruvians urgently need international solidarity to end the political repression of this government. We need more voices to help us amplify our demands for justice on the massacres perpetrated by the regime of Dina Boluarte and to accompany us in this longstanding struggle. We require your help to pressure towards democracy and to stop the consolidation of absolute power at the hands of the traditional ruling class in Peru.”
Matt Willgress of Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America highlighted that this was part of a continent-wide effort to oppose social progress: “we’ve also seen the appalling violence in Brazil this week from Bolsonaro supporters. A lot of us are gravely concerned about the scenes we’re seeing from Santa Cruz in Bolivia and the attempts to destabilise the socialist government there. And, of course, sanctions continue against other countries with the aim of supporting illegal regime change, such as Venezuela and the blockade against Cuba.”
“Supporting this Peruvian struggle is also about supporting those other struggles for social progress and self-determination.”
The final speaker, Jeremy Corbyn, said “in the case of Peru it’s an absolute disgrace what is happening. An elected president has been removed. The ambassador of Mexico has been removed because he tried to visit the President in prison. Protesters are being brutally attacked by the police and other forces.”
“What is it that the right in Peru are so worried about? Essentially the loss of their own power. They’ve had it their own way for a very long time: the massive levels of inequality that exists in Peru; the power of the biggest landowners and the biggest mining companies, and the biggest exporters, is absolutely enormous.
“The hope that was there in [Castillo’s] electoral triumph is something that the right cannot tolerate. We saw a similar process in Bolivia, where the government was removed by a process of lawfare… but it’s not over yet. There are very strong moves against the government and so our solidarity has to be with them.”
Solidarity with those fighting for democracy and an end to the repression in Peru must be a priority for all progressives and socialists in the UK – alongside support for all left governments, for example in Bolivia and Brazil, who are facing a backlash from elites for their opposition to neoliberalism.