“While the elite are trying to regain power with the force of bullets, the popular camp continues to mobilise, generating support and solidarity.”
By Anahi Durand Guevara
In the midst of massive mobilisations, Peru is experiencing the collapse of the political regime imposed by Alberto Fujimori’s self-coup in 1992 and renewed in the 2001 transition. The decomposition of the regime became more evident in 2016 when “Fujimorism” lost the presidency, but gained a large majority in Congress that allowed it to manipulate legality and increasingly turn to parliamentarism.
The string of six presidents in six years, only two elected in free elections, is representative of this deterioration of democracy, the imbalance of powers and disrespect for the will of the people.
After facing sixteen months of siege, three motions of vacancy and dozens of prosecutorial accusations, Castillo tried to shut down Parliament and call for a Constituent Assembly. No sooner had he finished his speech than he was arrested by his own bodyguards. Hours later, Congress swore in Vice President Dina Boluarte as president and celebrated what they believed was the opportunity to regain control of the entire state. To the surprise of the Lima elites and the traitor Boluarte, citizen indignation exploded from day one with unprecedented massiveness and forcefulness.
All over the country, but especially in the Andean south, hundreds of thousands of Peruvians took to the streets and squares with a unified platform: resignation of Dina Boluarte, closure of Congress, a new constitution and freedom for Castillo. Boluarte’s response has been repression and criminalisation; serious human rights violations, with 63 Peruvians killed in protests in less than two months of government, as well as hundreds of people injured and arrested, and the violation of the academic campus of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos with police tanks to arrest students.
The right-wing alliance in government today is unleashing a restoration offensive aimed at ending the crisis in an authoritarian manner. Dina Boluarte is only the legal face of the ruling civil-military regime. In Peru today, the right-wing bloc that lost the elections is in power. Fujimorismo, Renovación Popular and Avanza País have carried the baton throughout the crisis, diluting the political centre. From Parliament, these parties are pushing for a dangerous “political reform”, manipulating legality and violating the Constitution in order to perpetuate themselves in power and ensure that they do not lose the presidency again. To this end, they intend to change the heads of the electoral bodies, the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) and the National Jury of Elections (Jurado Nacional de Elecciones).
It is also important to highlight the role of the armed forces and the police at this juncture. Today we see army and police generals with an unusually political voice, justifying the bloody repression with the argument that the protests involve criminals and terrorists financed by drug trafficking and illegal mining. Finally, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary were very active in the removal of Castillo and close to Boluarte, to the point that the first cabinet was chaired by Pedro Angulo, who was close to Prosecutor Benavides. The prosecutor’s office has been quick to prosecute and criminalise protest by opening specialised prosecutors’ offices for terrorist crimes with the clear aim of prosecuting opposition leaders and authorities.
Despite unabated protests and growing international condemnation, Boluarte refuses to resign, and calls on Congress to bring forward the elections. But Congress is unable to agree on an early election date, and while they delay his tenure they also deny the people a referendum to consult on a new constitution written by a Constituent Assembly.
Popular protest and the road to a new constitution
The protest has demonstrated the politicisation of rural and excluded Peru. This is unprecedented and is decisively changing the national political dynamics, opening a moment of collective deliberation around the main national problems.
Today, in the squares of districts and communities, people are meeting in assemblies, discussing actions to be taken in protest and also on issues of historical exclusion “It’s not 7th December, it’s 200 years” we hear repeated in Andahuaylas or Juliaca while waving the wiphala, the banner of the Quechua and Aymara indigenous peoples. This power that the social explosion is displaying also radiates to the cities, arriving through solidarity, through countrymen settled in Lima or the north. And it may finally be what defines the scenario and tips the balance in favour of a constituent process.
It is said that every crisis also brings an opportunity, and in Peru the people are persisting for a democratic solution. While the power elite groups are trying to regain power with the force of bullets, the popular camp continues to mobilise, generating support and solidarity. The excluded, informal and precarious country of teachers, motorbike taxi drivers, coca growers, informal miners, peasants and indigenous people has said enough and rebelled against the racist and classist political class. But now the people, now as a collective subject, have understood that it is not enough to achieve the resignation of Dina Boluarte and elect new members of Congress, a comprehensive change is needed, and that is not the task of just a few politicians. For this reason, the mobilised population itself is proposing the urgency of re-founding the country with a new Constitution written by a Constituent Assembly in which they themselves participate. It is a question of leaving behind the Constitution imposed by Fujimori’s dictatorship in 1993 and moving towards a new Magna Carta written for the first time by all the peoples of Peru.
In the midst of betrayal, repression and pain for the fallen, the hope of a constituent assembly as an opportunity to re-found the country is making its way from the Andes.
- Anahí Durand Guevara is a sociologist, ex-minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations in the presidency of Pedro Castillo in Peru and founder of Women for a New Constitution.
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