The imprisonment of Pedro Castillo and the forceful removal of his government have led to massive protests by the poorest sections of society. As the repression grows, so too does the resistance, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE
AS the mass mobilisations for the return of democracy in Peru intensify, the illegitimate government of President Dina Boluarte this week declared a state of emergency in seven regions where the largest anti-government protests are taking place.
The coup-government clampdown now exists in 11 of Peru’s largest administrative areas, including Lima, the nation’s capital.
The emergency decree restricts or suspends basic constitutional rights, including freedom of movement and assembly and personal freedom and security.
It is two months now since the political crisis erupted when elected president Pedro Castillo was removed.
Soon after, Castillo was arrested by the police before being able to take up Mexican President Amlo’s offer of safe haven in its Lima embassy, and congress proceeded to appoint his former vice-president, Boluarte, as president.
Castillo, a former school teacher and union organiser from Peru’s rural north, narrowly won the 2021 presidential election by 45,000 votes against the right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori of Popular Force in the second round of voting.
But the last 18 months have seen a concerted attempt by right-wing forces to dislodge him from office.
Since the coup against Castillo on December 7, protests have grown in size and strength, despite brutal police and army repression.
Over 70 protesters have died at the hands of state forces. Thousands more have been injured in clashes on demonstrations and marches across the country as they voiced their demands
These centre on Boluarte resigning immediately, the freeing of jailed former president Castillo, congress being dissolved and fresh elections being held as soon as possible.
Another demand is for the setting up of a constituent assembly to make Peru a democratic nation that can begin to tackle the fault lines of race, class and political geography that create deep inequalities across the country.
As in Bolivia’s struggle to overturn the coup regime of Jeanine Anez, demonstrators are also calling for justice for those killed, injured or criminalised in this struggle for democracy, including reparations for lives lost.
Gustavo Minaya, assistant general secretary of Peru’s General Confederation of Workers, has accused the police of “excessive abuse” against protesters on the streets of Lima demanding the resignation of Boluarte.
“We denounce to the national and international press the excessive abuse and provocation that the police have been committing against protesters during the movement of citizens through the streets,” he said.
Despite the repression, Minaya has vowed that strikes and resistance will be “carried out forcefully” whatever obstacles are put in their way.
An indefinite national strike starting on January 11 to demand Boluarte’s resignation has been called for by the ad hoc National Collegiate Committee of Struggle of the Regions.
Throughout this period, international condemnation of the Boluarte government has been increasing.
Organisations such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have denounced its repressive reaction to the protests, including the labelling of protesters as “terrorists.”
But currently, there is no sign of that the conservative political parties in congress and their allies in big business and the media are minded to respond to any of these demands.
A Bill proposed by the leftist party Free Peru and supported by three other parties for holding early general elections and a referendum on July 7 was rejected by 75 votes to 48.
This struggle in Peru against right-wing forces bent on preserving inequality and privilege against a drive for social progress must be supported.
Mass movements can defeat coup regimes as the recent examples of Honduras and Bolivia show.
International solidarity must champion this cause in the interests of justice and democracy.
This article originally appeared in The Morning Star