Jan 25, 2023 10:22 p.m
The population of Peru is taking to the streets across the country, forming blockades and fighting street battles with the police and the military. After 60 dead demonstrators, the putsch president Dina Boluarte is ready to talk. However, the rebellious population no longer recognizes her as a legitimate negotiating partner.
By Maria Mueller
On Tuesday, Peru’s interim president, Dina Boluarte, proposed negotiations to the insurgents in her country. Discussions are to take place in every province in order to improve social living conditions.
“It is true that social reforms have been delayed for decades,” she said in a televised address last Tuesday. However, the real culprit for the violent protests is the imprisoned ex-president Petro Castillo. His talk of a coup provoked the escalation of fighting. In her speech, Boluarte did not address the protesters who were shot and the bystanders. She also left the demands of many protesters for her immediate resignation and for constitutional new elections this year without comment, as well as the demanded release of the previous President Pedro Castillo.
Boluarte no longer recognized as a negotiating partner
A growing part of the population is questioning their legal and political legitimacy. The responsibility for the massacres of the armed police in the provinces weighs heavily on them. Some local governments there are now refusing any talks. Boluarte has previously apologized publicly for the violent police occupation and eviction of the University of San Marcos, which injured scores of students and demonstrators from the interior of the country who were camping there. Two women, Jennifer Bets Alarta Villalta and Ingrid Aguirre Ticona, were forcibly taken away in police cars. A spokeswoman for the indigenous people, Cirila Merma Chacacuta de Espinar, has been missing since January 19. As a result of the incidents at the university, the senior public prosecutor’s office opened preliminary proceedings against Interior Minister Vicente Romero. Meanwhile, a group of prosecutors are making surprise visits to the police force to review procedures against demonstrators.
On January 24, several social organizations called for a large national march to the capital to persuade President Boluarte to resign.
Meanwhile, the demonstrations in the capital Lima continue. Traffic chaos there complicates the situation, since it is difficult to predict where the demonstrating groups are going. They mostly walk peacefully with flags and banners through the city center and the surrounding neighborhoods, as long as there are no attempts to evict the police. Otherwise the situation usually escalates quickly; the demonstrators attacked with stones, which the police answered with tear gas bombs.
85 roadblocks across the country
According to press reports, more than a dozen courthouses and police stations in various localities were set on fire. In addition, there were 85 road blockades within numerous cities, in the area of their access connections and on interurban roads. The famous “Panamericana” highway, which crosses South America from north to south, is also impassable in many places. The Association of Transport Companies (Sutran) is complaining of heavy losses as the companies’ trucks are stuck in many places.
In the province of Madre de Dios there is no more petrol at the petrol stations. The capital’s meat supply is becoming increasingly precarious, and food prices are rising. The nutrition of Lima’s ten million inhabitants is completely dependent on the rebellious rural population. Air traffic in Peru is also severely restricted due to the occupation of the runways at several airports. The Inca city of Machu Picchu, which is popular with tourists, and the nearby Cusco cannot be visited at the moment. The military marched into the most mobilized province of Puno yesterday, and there is a curfew. The state of emergency was extended for Lima, Puno and Cusco.
Conflict changes political balance of power
The scenario of the conflict has changed fundamentally in the past few days. The confrontation expanded from a violent, but initially only regional protest to a mobilization throughout Peru, especially in the capital. The political elites in Lima and the civil servants based there are now feeling the radical nature of the uprising directly in their everyday lives.
It is still unclear whether the departure of ex-President Castillo will lead to renewed control of Peru by the elites and the oil and gas companies. Where the resulting shock will lead to is currently not foreseeable. Apparently, however, this is not another of the numerous changes of government so routinely carried out by the Peruvian Congress.
After all, Pedro Castillo’s government had kept the social demands of the underprivileged sections of the population at a peaceful level – in contrast to the neighboring countries of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. For millions of people, Castillo embodied the hope for social reforms that could be implemented within the institutional framework. This hope is buried for the time being.
The demonstrations have already achieved their goal: to carry the conflict to Lima. They were able to break the self-isolation of their capital, which was culturally and politically barricaded in the values of the colonial era. As in 2000 with the overthrow of the dictator Fujimori, the reference to the territories of the former Inca Empire, with which a large part of the people of southern Peru still – or again – identify themselves, provides an identity in the struggle for their rights to a humane and culturally respected existence.
more on the subject – More than 60 dead in protests in Peru: Inca city of Machu Picchu closed to tourists
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