The protests of the Peruvian people staged against the dictatorial government of Dina Boluarte have been taking place for more than a month and, in recent days; have taken on more intensive and generalised form. Road blocks and important demonstrations in several regions of the country have been routine, like in Puno, Arequipa, Junín, Cusco and Apurímac.
The unanimous cry of the people raised in protest is to demand the resignation of Boluarte, the closure of Congress, the immediate call for elections and the freedom of Pedro Castillo. If these demands are rejected, the protests will intensify, in a more resilient manner. For their part, representatives of the government have not been able to hide a series of highly repressive measures, which seek to manipulate the circumstances and control the crisis created by the ruling classes of the neighbouring country.
The police have tried to unblock the roads taken over by the thousands of demonstrators who have resorted to stones and the burning of tires; which has been countered in a most cowardly way with abundant tear gas and, most seriously, the use of firearms by the police and military. These have already left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured and detained. The “protectors”, who have occupied public buildings and airports and carried out brutal repression against the people, have not been able to quell the agitators. They have not been demoralised and, on the contrary, their demonstrations have become more emphatic and resounding, despite the warnings of the Boluarte government. It preserves the state of emergency, as the main mechanism of curbing control the social discontent that has simmered again in the streets and plazas of the country. Everything indicates that the struggle in Peru will intensify till the demands have been met.
The exhortations of President Boluarte have been in vain. She accuses the people of “retreat, pain, economic losses”, thereby trying to hide the fact that the crisis in Peru has been caused by the anti-popular governments that are subservient to the interests of imperialism and the Peruvian ruling classes. The crisis has greatly worsened with the illegal dismissal of President Pedro Castillo through a coup d’état, supported and engineered by US imperialism.
The decision of the people is to continue with the protests despite the violent repression and the political manoeuvres that have been developed by the authorities to stop them. “They must all go”, the resignation of Boluarte, the closure of Parliament, the holding of a constituent process to change the 1993 Constitution, and the call for immediate new elections are the banners that are held high.
The Peruvian Prosecutor’s Office has been forced to undertake a process of investigation into Boluarte for the crimes that have been committed against the people. However, the people do place faith that the process will be fully enforced as it may well be part of the ploys that try to subside the intensity of the struggles. Boluarte, for her part, cynically calls for peace and accuses those who protest of enacting violence.
The coup d’état that took place in Peru on December 8 wrote a new chapter in the serious political crisis that has shaken that country for months. As soon as Pedro Castillo took over the preignsof residency of the Republic, imperialism and the Peruvian big bourgeoisie conspired against that government which came about with broad popular support, due to its economic, political and social agenda that promoted the people’s yearnings for change. However, those hopes were quelled by Castillo’s rejection of his electoral program, particularly the proposal to convene a Constituent Assembly, and by a little-transparent government management with close relatives in key positions.
Castillo’s dismissal and imprisonment does not terminate the political crisis, but accentuates it. Six presidents of the Republic have taken turns in Peru in the last six years; all of them are directly responsible for perpetuating the economic and political crisis, for the serious social problems that affect the workers and the people, for an anti-national policy blessing the interests of international finance capital and for the allotment of huge mining concessions to international monopolies.
In the highest spheres, the different bourgeois factions contend for spaces of power and institutional control, while the workers and the people are merciless victims of poverty, unemployment, low wages and repression when they protest. These and other problems and material demands precipitate the struggle of the people, particularly they are demanding the convocation of a Constituent Assembly within the framework of their demands: They must all go!
More than two months after taking power, Boluarte is obstinate to step down. According to polls, support for the protests was at 59 percent at the end of January. Some 74 percent demand the president’s resignation; 73 percent are calling for new elections this year; and 69 percent are in favour of calling a Constituent Assembly.
Attempts to centralise protest demands have so far failed. While some protesters aim to re structure the country through establishing constitutional reform that would transform the economic model and establish Peru as a plurinational state, others only seek reverting to democracy and institutional changes. The one shared goal among the protesters is the resignation of Boluarte and early elections.
If she does resign and early elections are held, protests for a Constituent Assembly and justice for victims will probably persist, but most protesters will demobilise. If the new government avoids arbitrary repression and stagers a fair election, the demands may be incorporated into the campaign.
However if the president maintains power solely through repression, it is likely that protests of high intensity will continue, with continuous ebb and flow , particularly in Lima and the southern regions.
The weakness of Peru’s political actors makes it difficult to imagine the emergence of an authoritarian regime, but there are other paths we must fear. Even if Boluarte resigns peacefully or transfers power following elections, Peru still faces underlying structural issues. The dichotomy between authoritarianism on one side and impunity on the other will flair up radical actors.
It has weak overall state capacity and meaningless political parties that produce politicians who refuse to be accountable to their constituents. A system governed by political amateurs has fostered endemic instability that makes the country ungovernable.
Important that the mass movement is crystallised giving class struggle the cutting edge, preventing people being swayed by the powerful waves of ruling class politics. The masses must learn lessons from past experience in Latin America when regimes have toppled.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has studied national liberation movements