By: Cooper Dutton
LIMA, PERU—At least 50 Peruvians were injured after police clashed with protesters in anti-government demonstrations that have spread across the country.
In the capital city of Lima, volleys of tear gas and thrown stones characterized the standoff between police and protester. Thousands of protesters had come to the capital to take part in a march billed as “the takeover of Lima” to demand the resignation of the newly installed president, Dina Boluarte.
Opponents of the protesters, among them Boluarte, have denounced the demonstrations, claiming that they lack any agenda other than the breakdown of the rule of law, chaos, and seizure of power for themselves. Boluarte called out attempts by protesters to take over several regional airports. The ensuing clashes resulted in several deaths, sparking outrage and further fueled the protests.
Peru has been wracked by protests and violent unrest since December 7th, when President Pedro Castillo was impeached and removed from office by Congress.
The Castillo administration had, like many Peruvian presidents, been characterized by extreme tension between the executive and Congress. Castillo had already faced several corruption investigations and impeachments by the opposition-led legislature.
Castillo sought to prevent a third impeachment effort by dissolving Congress and forcing new elections in what the nation’s top constitutional court called a coup d’etat. Castillo is now being held in pre-trial detention while an investigation on charges of rebellion is underway.
Supporters of Castillo believe that he was the victim of a coup by Congress and Boluarte, saying that she and the legislature which installed her do not represent them.
Most of Castillo’s supporters are indigenous and from rural areas. They see his removal as yet another act of exclusion of indigenous Peruvians, who have largely been left out of the nation’s political process and economic growth. Castillo himself is indigenous and from the country’s rural south. The former teacher was elected to the presidency in 2021 on a leftist platform that appealed to those who felt left out of the political process.
Castillo’s removal has only intensified those feelings of alienation among his supporters. They are calling for Boluarte to resign, demanding for new elections, and asking for the government to convene a constitutional assembly to write a new constitution which they hope will better represent them.
The demands of the protesters have not made much of an impact on the Peruvian political elite. Boluarte has repeatedly insisted that she will not stand down or call a constitutional assembly, although she is reportedly considering new elections.
She has denounced the protesters as violent and chaos-driven but said she will meet with them if they are peaceful.
In response, many protesters have said that no dialogue is possible with a government which treats its own citizens so violently.
The protests and the government’s reaction to them has also garnered international scrutiny. Boluarte met with a representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday. The agency had previously stated that it was very concerned about the situation in Peru.
Ambassadors have echoed the UN agency’s words. The American and British ambassadors in Peru both praised that the meeting took place and also put out calls for peace. The calls for peace were for both the protesters and the government, who they called on to participate in talks with protest leaders.
They called for thorough and impartial investigations into any human rights violations and to bring justice to any potential victims.
Analysts are skeptical that the future holds much good news for Peru in the near term.
Some feel that most politicians do not seem to understand what is motivating the protesters. One analyst said, “The political establishment in Lima is unable or unwilling to understand the root cause of the protests. They seem to be convinced that this is just a ‘terrorist attack’ in the country with no legitimacy.” He further went on to say that he did not see the situation playing out peacefully anytime soon.