Ongoing protests and political demonstrations that have swept Peru are nearing their second full month. The protests began in reaction to the removal of President Pedro Castillo (he/him) after he was impeached and arrested on charges of rebellion.
Castillo was an elementary school teacher in the rural town of Puña before he ran for the presidency. His experience in a lower-class job and as a strike leader led many of his supporters to believe that he would alleviate poverty, primarily in rural areas and among Peru’s Indigenous population. He was elected president in July of 2021 as the candidate for the left-wing Free Peru party.
Castillo campaigned on being a president for the people. While in office, he approved two increases in the minimum wage. However, like many presidents before him, his term was filled with allegations of corruption.
Castillo was being investigated by Peru’s attorney general for misusing public funds and for running a “criminal organization” within the government. On December 7th, he faced his third impeachment attempt. In response, he announced that he would dissolve Congress and “install an emergency government that would rule by decree,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations, an American foreign policy think tank. Soon after, many government officials resigned from their positions, and Congress quickly voted to remove him from office.
Vice President Dina Boluarte (she/her) was sworn in as the new president that same day. She called a national state of emergency in response to protests on December 14th, extending it again on January 15th for the capital Lima and several other regions. The protests have been inflamed by social tensions, such as Peru’s growing poverty gap. Many of Castillo’s supporters, like him, come from an impoverished, rural, Indigenous background. They assert that the impeachment was unfair and are pressuring Boluarte to step down. Clashes between protestors and the police have been violent, with protestors setting up road blocks and the police using tear gas and firearms. According to the Associated Press, the death of a man in Lima on January 28th brings the death total to 58 people since the protests began. Reporter Julie Turkewitz (she/her) told The New York Times that as of January 22nd, “There are now protests or blockades in about 40 percent of Peru’s provinces.”
Amid the crisis, Boluarte has asked Congress to move up the date for the next presidential election. It was already pushed forward to April 2024 from 2026, but Boluarte is advocating for a move to late 2023.