The Student Movement


What's Happening in Peru?

Julia Randall

Photo by Public Domain

In the last 33 years, every former president of Peru has been investigated, and most have spent time in jail. On December 7 of last year, the then-current president, a former rural school teacher, abruptly joined the ranks of his predecessors when he was arrested after an attempt to dissolve Peru’s congress, resulting in the sudden inauguration of the nation's first female president, former vice president Dina Boluarte, which fueled political unrest.

Pedro Castillo became president in July 2021 after narrowly beating right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori. Since then, corruption and “moral incapacity” accusations (which Castillo denied) from an unsupportive Congress had led to two separate unsuccessful impeachment attempts. Peru experienced a high turnover rate of government officials, including five different prime ministers during Castillo’s presidency. Public dissatisfaction also grew as his unstable presidency proved more moderate than promised by his campaign, and by November, protestors were calling for Castillo’s resignation. He presented himself as the victim of attacks from political opposition, particularly from Congress. He ultimately followed in the footsteps of his rival’s father, Alberto Fujimori, the ex-president who dissolved Peru’s congress in 1992 in a military-backed coup (and who is currently in prison for abuse of power, among other convictions). Unlike Fujimori’s actions two decades ago, Castillo’s attempt to replace Congress with his “emergency government,” viewed by some Peruvians as an “autocratic” play, brought his presidential career to a prompt end. Congress responded to the declaration by ignoring the order, successfully voting for Castillo’s impeachment, and swearing in Dina Boluarte. Castillo was detained en route to the Mexican Embassy and investigation continues on the alleged rebellion.

Since the December 7 events, protests originating in southern Peru have spread across the country as Castillo supporters call for Boluarte to resign, prompting Peru to declare a state of emergency nationwide and close Machu Picchu as roadblocks affect access to the area. The arrival of the protests to Lima was met with nearly 12 thousand police. One march eventually dispersed during the confusion generated as a fire consumed a historic mansion in the capital city. Meanwhile, Boluarte criticized participants, claiming that the chaotic demonstrations were an attempt to overtake the government. In the aftermath, some 200 protestors were detained at a Lima university after taking control of the property.

While some blame the new president for a lack of control over the demonstrations, the European Union condemned the violence associated with what it declared to be an excessive usage of police force. As of January 30, 58 people have been killed in connection with the protests, only one of whom was a police officer.

With each additional death, Boluarte faces growing pressure to step down. While she has made no indication that she will resign, Boluarte, who had originally been expected to serve the remainder of Castillo´s term which would end in 2026, has pressured Congress to approve earlier elections, stressing the government's responsibility to respond to the Peruvian people. On January 28, Congress rejected a proposal to elect a new government for 2024, but on January 30, lawmakers barely passed a motion to reconsider moving the election up to October 2023. Regardless, without increased support in Congress, the proposal cannot pass, meaning that the quickest route to a presidential election is likely Boluarte´s resignation. This would give less opportunity for Boluarte to receive corruption accusations, meaning resignation could be a move that would save her from the fate of prior Peruvian presidents. For now, the country continues to face political uncertainty and waits to see whether Congress can approve sooner elections.

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.