It’s actually only a few hundred meters from the Plaza San Martin in Lima until Palace of Gobierno, the government palace in the center of the Peruvian capital. Nevertheless, it seemed recently as if the two places were worlds apart. Because while Peruvian President Dina Boluarte appeared in front of the cameras in the great hall of the government palace on Thursday evening and declared that the situation in the country was under control, a few blocks away on San Martin Square, police officers shot angry demonstrators with tear gas. Flames erupted from the roof of a building.
The protests continued on Friday – both in the capital and in other parts of the country. In Lima, a local TV station filmed protesters armed with glass bottles and rocks clashed with police officers, who in turn used tear gas. Several fires burned in the streets. In the southern Puno region, around 1,500 protesters attacked a police station in the city of Ilave, Interior Minister Vicente Romero Fernández confirmed.
Has been for weeks Peru shaken by heavy protests. Roads are blocked, airports closed, a state of emergency applies in several regions. They are primarily directed against the government and President Dina Boluarte. Demonstrators are demanding new elections and a dissolution of Congress. The actual causes of the resentment, however, lie much deeper.
Peru is South America’s fifth largest nation. After a bloody civil war and an authoritarian government, the country began an unprecedented rise in the early 2000s. Fueled by exports of raw materials, the economy was booming, while at the same time tourists flocked to the country, attracted by unique nature and cultural treasures such as the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
In Lima, mirrored office towers grew into the sky, but at the same time, in many rural regions, there was hardly any prosperity and progress. Roads remained unpaved, and to this day many villages do not even have running water. And while internationally acclaimed top chefs served multi-course menus to wealthy customers in the capital, children in the country still suffer from malnutrition to this day.
Many people there feel betrayed by a state that, in their eyes, primarily serves a small elite that controls politics and the media and manages their own pockets. In fact, almost all presidents of the last few decades have been charged with bribery and corruption. The country’s once major parties now have little support among the population, and the governments are changing more and more quickly. Some presidents stayed in office for only a few days.
More than a dozen candidates ran in the last elections in 2021, and Pedro Castillo, a former village school teacher and trade unionist who ran for a small Marxist party, won.
The rejoicing was great, especially in the rural and indigenous regions: Castillo himself comes from a poor, rural background. In the capital Lima, however, there was horror. Many feared that Peru could turn into a socialist country of chaos. Castillo met with fierce opposition in Congress, as well as in the press.
More than 50 people have died in the last few weeks
At the same time, the new government became involved in more and more scandals, and ministers had to be replaced or resign on a weekly basis. The president’s popularity fell, and there were repeated motions of no confidence in Castillo.
At the beginning of December, the left-wing head of state then tried to dissolve the congress and rule by decree. Constitutional lawyers saw this as an illegal seizure of power. Castillo was arrested. Prosecutors charged him with rebellion.
Dina Boluarte, the vice-president, took office in accordance with the constitution. However, protests soon broke out in some rural regions, demanding that Castillo be released and new elections held.
The initially peaceful demonstrations soon turned violent. More than 50 people have died in recent weeks, including a police officer who burned alive in his car. Human rights groups accuse the military and police of using excessive force. Victims on the part of the demonstrators often have gunshot wounds to the head, chest or back.
In her speech on Thursday, Dina Boluarte nevertheless praised the “impeccable” work of the police. At the same time, she criticized the demonstrators: “Why don’t you go to work?” asked the President. For the future, Boluarte announced that he intends to use the “full force of the law” against the protests. But large demonstrations have already been announced for the next few days.