By Linda Wang
On Dec. 7, 2022, former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo made the radical announcement to officially dissolve Peru’s Congress following the congressional vote to determine his impeachment. Akin to a dictatorship, Castillo planned to rule with his own edict until he could form a new legislature. This action resulted in the loss of Castillo’s political allies and his removal from office. The Peruvian government has since declared a state of emergency with protesters swarming the streets, blocking streets, highways, and roads.
Castillo’s public support stems from his background and policies; he was a pioneer in the political field, presenting himself as a “man of the people.” As the first left-wing president in a generation, former President Castillo never held a position in office prior to his election. He was born in a poor village in rural Peru and walked two hours to school every day; as an adult, he returned to his home village to become a primary school teacher. After gaining recognition in a teacher’s strike in 2017, Castillo won the presidential election in 2021 by a mere 44,000 votes. His policies of economic inequality reduction, monopoly and oligarchy regulation, and the declaration of gas and internet as natural rights gained considerable traction, especially among poor Peruvians in rural towns. However, the former president’s political proclamations fell short after his swearing-in.
Turnover in Castillo’s government grew, with new ministers appointed every week, and Castillo failed to deliver on his promises, prompting Congressional attempts at impeachment twice. Castillo’s proclamation to dissolve Congress and establish a dictatorship was the final straw, leading Congress to oust him and sending the country into havoc.
Currently, the state of emergency — as called by the Defense Minister — is still in effect as of Jan. 16. As former Vice President Dina Boluarte replaces Castillo as President, mostly Indigenous protestors from the rural south clash with Boluarte’s wealthy and lighter-skinned supporters from Lima. As of Jan. 16, more than forty people, including protesters and police officers alike, have died in the violent demonstrations.
The unrest is not unique to Peru, but is part of a growing wave of distrust in Latin American governments. At present, Peru’s political future remains unclear. President Boluarte herself is the sixth Peruvian president since 2018. However, she stands firm in her position, refusing to resign and pledging to lead Peru and fight corruption at all costs. “I have seen with revulsion how the press and judicial bodies have reported shameful acts of robbery against the money of all Peruvians,” she declared, “and this cancer must be rooted out.”
(Sources: New Yorker, NY Times, CNN, BBC, as-coa.org, The Economist)