By Andrew Raynus — International & National News Editor
Protests in Peru in support of an ousted president have plunged the country into civil strife with no end in sight.
The Peruvian Congress removed left-leaning president Pedro Castillo from office on December 7th, 2022 on charges of corruption and rebellion. Castillo tried to illegally dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote, which was the final straw for Peruvian authorities. His vice president, Dina Boluarte, ascended to the presidency becoming Peru’s sixth president in five years.
For many Peruvians, especially Castillo’s supporters, Boluarte is not a legitimate president and protests began demanding immediate elections and a restructuring of Congress. Protests began peacefully in the south and spread across the country until Boluarte sent in the police and military with orders to use force if necessary. Everything quickly devolved as federal forces began firing live rounds into crowds and dropping smoke bombs. Protesters responded by fighting back and setting roadblocks. Over 50 people have died from this unrest so far.
Many in Peru are appalled by the military’s use of excessive force as protests continue. “I feel a mixture of rage and impotence…life is worth nothing,” said student Daisy Milagros from Juliaca, Peru’s fourth largest city. Juliaca and other southern cities have experienced the worst violence.
Experts say that the feelings behind these protests have been building over time with the inequality, corruption, and tumultuous political system the country has seen since the 1990s. “This is the product of years and years of accumulated indignation…It’s much more than an election,” said Raúl Pacheco, an anthropologist in Cusco.
Boluarte says the protests have no social agenda and only seek to generate chaos. “To the Peruvian people, to those who want to work in peace and to those who generate acts of protests I say: I will not get tired of calling them to a good dialogue, to tell them that we work for the country,” said Boluarte. She has said she will not resign despite the protesters’ demands.
Some bigger clashes happened at the country’s main airports between protesters and security forces. This has caused thousands of flights to be canceled and the airports to be closed by the government. “These actions will be updated as we unite in a fraternal and sincere dialogue and stop the violence,” said a statement from the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Tourism, one of Peru’s biggest industries, has especially suffered since protests began. The government temporarily closed Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. “It’s nationwide chaos, you can’t live like this. We are in a terrible uncertainty – the economy, vandalism,” said a resident of Lima, Peru’s capital.
Protesters will likely keep up their efforts until they believe an effective response is created by Boluarte and Congress. Many Peruvians say they will fight until then with no compromise as they set blockades to disrupt Peru’s supply chain. “We have to fight until the last person, we have to fight until the very last one,” said Adelma Quispe, a protester in the southern town of Ayavire.