Following the overthrow of previous President Pedro Castillo last month, Peru has experienced some of its worst violence in decades as protestors who support the current administration demand political reform in the nation.

Several conflicts occurred in December, a state of emergency was declared, and hundreds of international visitors were left stranded in the nation due to the unrest.

Human rights organizations claim that authorities used disproportionate force—including firearms—against protestors, resulting in the deaths of scores of individuals so far in skirmishes with security personnel. According to the army, protestors have utilized homemade explosive devices and guns, according to Reuters.

The 30-day state of emergency imposed by the Peruvian government over the weekend was extended to include the capital Lima, as well as the regions of Cusco, Puno, and the Callao constitutional province. The freedom of movement and assembly are among the constitutional rights that are suspended during a state of emergency.

Dina Boluarte, the next president of Peru, appears to be in a similar predicament to her predecessor. A probe into how Boluarte handled the protests was started in January by Peru’s chief prosecutor’s office, and several of her ministers have since resigned.

On January 9, more than a dozen people lost their lives in Juliaca.
On January 9, more than a dozen people lost their lives in Juliaca.
Source: Jose Sotomayor
Why are demonstrators so irate?
Castillo’s removal has increased the nation’s long-simmering political tensions.

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A new election, Boluarte’s resignation, a constitutional amendment, and Castillo’s release from pre-trial imprisonment are among the demands of protesters.

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader who ran for president without ever having been elected, hails from a rural area of Peru and presents himself as a man of the people. Many of his fans are from the country’s poorer areas and hoped Castillo would improve the chances for the rural and indigenous populations.

While protests have taken place all around the country, the region’s rural and indigenous south—which has historically clashed with the nation’s coastal White and mestizo elites—has seen the most bloodshed.

The public holds a dim image of Peru’s legislative branch. According to Peruvian law, the president and members of legislature are not permitted to serve multiple terms, and detractors have cited their lack of political experience.

What caused the recent turmoil in Peru?
Since Boluarte became president in 2018, Peruvian politics has been rife with turmoil.

In December, Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress and impose an interim administration threw it back into political upheaval.

Castillo was impeached and expelled from office after a brief tenure marred by numerous corruption probes. He is currently being charged with conspiring and committing acts of insurrection.

Days after his removal, his fans mobilized in what some have referred to as a “national insurgency,” calling for his release.

On December 7, Boluarte will be present at her swearing-in ceremony in Lima, Peru.
On December 7, Boluarte will be present at her swearing-in ceremony in Lima, Peru.
Reuters/Sebastian Castaneda
The deaths brought on by the skirmishes between protesters and police have heightened tensions and fury on both sides.

After a respite after the holidays, protests started up again in early January. In the Puno region, where the bulk of the Aymara indigenous people reside, in the southern city of Juliaca, at least 17 people were killed during anti-government demonstrations.

According to Juliaca’s head of legal medicine, autopsies on the 17 dead people revealed gunshot wounds.

Days later, while on patrol in the region, a police officer was set upon and killed by “unknown people,” according to the authorities.

How has the present administration handled the demonstrations?
Boluarte has had difficulty pacifying the demonstrators. Her defense minister at the time, Otárola, announced a state of emergency in the middle of December and sent troops into the streets.

Numerous individuals have been hurt in the violence that followed, and according to the country’s ombudsman, at least 49 people have died since the protests started.

In connection with the violence, the prosecutor in Peru opened an inquiry into Boluarte, Otárola, and other important ministers in January. They are accused of committing “genocide, qualified homicide, and significant injuries.” Boluarte has declared she will assist with the investigation.

01 protest in Cusco 011123
As anti-government violence moves to a vacation city, a protester is slain in Peru.
Additionally, the attorney general’s office declared that it will look into the management of the protests by the two former interior ministers and prime ministers who both worked under Boluarte for only a few weeks each: Pedro Angulo and Cesar Cervantes.

Since the protests started, a number of prominent ministers have quit. Eduardo Garca Birmisa, the nation’s former minister of labor, resigned on Thursday and demanded that Peru’s president apologise and call for general elections in a letter that was shared on his Twitter account. Victor Rojas Herrera, a former interior minister, and Grecia Rojas Ortiz, a minister for women and vulnerable populations, both announced their resignations the next day.

Boluarte has stated she has no plans to leave office despite growing political pressure.

Boluarte said to the nation during an address broadcast on state-run TV Peru on Friday: “I am not going to retire; my commitment is with Peru, not with that small minority that is bleeding the country dry.”

How did other people respond?
Global attention has been focused on the tragedy in Peru. On January 10, the European Union released a statement denouncing the violence and urging discussion in the nation. The next day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights dispatched an observation mission to Peru.

“We are grieved by the injuries and deaths in Peru and are extremely concerned about the continued violence there. All Peruvians should be able to live in peace and take advantage of their hard-won democracy. Brian A. Nichols, US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted on Friday, “We support peace on all sides & the govt’s stated commitments to solve the difficulties gripping the country.

On January 18, the Organization of American States will meet to “examine the situation in Peru.

Pedro Castillo: Who is he?
Castillo emerged from obscurity to win a tight runoff election in July 2021 and was regarded as a member of a “pink flood” of new left-wing leaders in Latin America.

On January 7, 2023, supporters of deposed president Pedro Castillo engage in combat with law enforcement in Juliaca, Peru.
On January 7, 2023, supporters of deposed president Pedro Castillo engage in combat with law enforcement in Juliaca, Peru.
Image by Juan Carlos Cisneros/AFP/Getty
Castillo failed throughout his brief administration to fulfill his campaign promises to amend the constitution and boost income redistribution due to Peru’s soaring inflation, his lack of political experience, and the fierce conservative opposition in Congress.

In a little more than a year, his government descended into disarray, with scores of ministers being appointed, removed, ousted from office, or resigning. Before being removed, Castillo himself was the subject of numerous corruption investigations and two failed efforts at impeachment.

Castillo has consistently disputed the accusations leveled against him and reaffirmed his willingness to assist with any corruption inquiry. He claimed that the accusations stem from a witch hunt against him and his family by factions who refused to recognize his election victory.

Savannah and Tom Turcich in 2020 in Urgup, Turkey
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Several leftist Latin American politicians were outraged by his detention and condemned his impeachment, claiming Castillo had been the target of “undemocratic harassment” ever since his victory in 2021.

His family was given sanctuary in Mexico, and Peru demanded that the Mexican ambassador leave within 72 hours. The decision, according to Peru’s foreign ministry, was made in response to remarks made against Peru by the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who described it as a “unacceptable involvement in internal affairs, in clear contravention to the principle of non-intervention.”

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