Peru or the art of perpetual ungovernability

It’s hard to keep track of How many presidents has Peru had in recent years? It is also difficult to understand why many of them have ended up on trial or on the run. It gives the feeling that no one can govern such an unstable country. A Pedro Castillo, the rural teacher who unexpectedly won the elections in 2021 and who today sleeps in prison as a result of a desperate act, was not given a day of grace. His management, riddled with errors, internal disputes and corruption, was subjected for 16 months to what could well be described as a simmering blow, cooked by the same forces that have made Peru the country of perpetual ungovernability.

A dead king, king set. This is how Peru walks. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who came to power in 2016, was succeeded by Martín Vizcarra. To this Manuel Merino. And before Castillo’s presidency, a certain Francisco Sagasti ruled for a while. Since Thursday, the tenant of the Government Palace is Dina Boluartea 60-year-old lawyer who She was Minister of Development and Social Inclusion and Vice President in the Castillo government. On Saturday he swore in the ministers of his cabinet, a team of technocrats who will be subject to the empire of lovers of slow cookers. Meanwhile, the social conflict is spreading throughout the country, with roadblocks and marches calling for the dissolution of Congress and the urgent call for elections.

The umpteenth crisis in Peru broke out last Thursday. The president was to go to Congress that day to submit to a motion of no confidence (the third during his tenure) raised by the extreme right and the parliamentary right. The opposition was close to achieving the two-thirds necessary to dismiss him for neither more nor less than for “permanent moral incapacity.” The circumstance occurs that the president of the Congress, Joseph Williamsthe State’s third authority, is a retired general accused of serious human rights violations and a member of the far-right formation Advance Country. But, apparently, his moral capacity is not in question.

At some point on Thursday morning, Castillo’s cables crossed and he decided, of his own free will or on the advice of his closest collaborators, not go to Congress but dissolve it and, with it, proceed to his political suicide. The president was not empowered for that closure. Article 134 of the Peruvian Constitution establishes that the President of the Republic can only dissolve Congress if it has censured or denied his confidence to two councils of ministers, a condition that was not met. As his hands trembled when reading her papers on television, versions of all kinds arose. There are even those who suspect, like him former premier Guido Bellido, who may have drugged Castillo. The ex-president would have told his former premieralready in prison, who did not even remember having read the speech.

The Backlash

For Hector Bejarshort-lived chancellor of one of Castillo’s five cabinets, what happened Thursday in Lima was a coup against Castillo: “He was never accepted because Peru is governed by a caste fed by banks and the mining companies that use the media as a combat weapon.He won the elections narrowly (he defeated the right-wing Keiko Fujimori in the second round) and his triumph was not accepted. That Breed finally got what they wanted. Although in Peru it is better not to make prophecies, an alternative is for the right to take full control of the situation. They had only lost the Executive, but it is the door for the budget and mining investments, and that is very important for them.”

In the equation of what has happened in Peru there are two variables that, according to Béjar, are essential to keep track of events: “racism and business.” For this veteran Peruvian writer and diplomat, who was a relevant political actor during the government of the progressive military Jesús Velasco Alvarado in the 1970s, Castillo has been prey to that caste that runs business and political life in Peru and that he could never stand for a man from the provinces to become president: “He has paid for his ingenuity and his ignorance of the codes of the Lima upper class and of the political and economic elites. He wanted to get closer to the right and forgot about the left”, comments Béjar in a telephone conversation from Lima.

The former president won the elections at the head of a small Marxist-Leninist party, Free Peru, whose leader and ideologue, Vladimir Cerrón, was disqualified by the courts from being a candidate. Unexpectedly, the 53-year-old rural teacher whose political curriculum until then had only included his participation in teachers’ strikes, took first place in the first round (19% of the votes) and beat Keiko Fujimori later thanks to the rejection that the daughter of the dictator Alberto Fujimori arouses among a good part of the Peruvian population. Paradoxically, Castillo can go down in history in the same chapter as Fujimori, both authors of a self-coup. The differences are, however, abysmal. El Chino prepared his own conscientiously in April 1992 and had the support of the Armed Forces. Castillo’s, on the other hand, seems to have been devised by a palace jester. It is, in any case, the strangest hit in historya, with only one participant, if we take into account that the circle that surrounded the former president has now disengaged from his decision. A coup without the help of any armed institution and that if it failed was not due to the solid springs of Peruvian democracy, as the great media of the Andean country have pompously tried to install, but rather due to the very cantinflesque nature of the pronouncement.

“It was like a joke,” Béjar intervenes, for whom the coup d’état was delivered to Castillo’s nose. “It was a very intelligent coup, a new modality. Now we all know in Latin America that if before they persecuted us with the Army and the police, now they do it with prosecutors. The new thing in Peru is to complement that with special operations. What is presented as a failed coup attempt by Castillo is, in reality, a coup against him. It is evident. It is enough to analyze it. The lady (Dina Boluarte) had her dress and her speech prepared for the swearing-in. Days before, the control commission of Congress He had been cleared of all his charges (for alleged administrative irregularities)”.

the sociologist sinesio lopez He also believes that the blow was given to Castillo. In a radio interview, López described the leftist leader’s decision to dissolve Congress as “an act of desperation” in the face of continued pressure from Congress. Castillo was not even authorized to travel abroad to represent the country. “There is a coup that failed, that of Castillo, and another that did succeed, that of Congress (…) It is not that democracy triumphed -López reasons-. Castillo’s was not viable. The other yes. Castillo became desperate and did an act of madness, perhaps thinking that he could have the support of the armed forces that he never had.”

The political analyst Julio Schiappa, however, does not believe that Congress made any coup. “Congress did not have enough votes (for the impeachment of the president). It was missing between eight and eleven votes (to reach 87, the necessary two-thirds). They could suspend it for obstruction of justice, but that was highly questionable from the constitutional point of view. With his failed act, a serious political error, Castillo creates a situation that gives rise to his dismissal by applying the Constitution (he was deposed with 101 votes in favor, six against and ten abstentions)”, explains Schiappa by phone from Lima.

The main problem in Peru now is, in Schiappa’s opinion, the insecurity that has caused the fall of Castillo: “There is a growing social protest in various parts of the country, like Cuzco. It is a reaction due to the lack of explanations about what has happened. Failed acts sometimes have a determining role and this is a very clear case. Castillo accepted a decision from his advisers due to lack of experience and ended up getting into a tremendous constitutional problem.”

The rural teacher promised to govern for the popular classes that brought him to power, those millions of Peruvians who live immersed in poverty or job insecurity. His inexperience and lack of leadership led him to seek the approval of a right wing that, in reality, conspired against him every day, and to move away progressively from the sectors of the left. At the same time -Schiappa points out-, he surrounded himself with various cliques: people from his union and Chotan businessmen (from the province of Chota, in the department of Cajamarca, where Castillo comes from). Some circles with power in the shadows among which corruption abounded. According to the nation’s attorney general’s office, the president himself would be involved in some of those corruption cases.

a gray cabinet

Castillo’s successor, Dina Boluarte (the first woman to lead a government in Peru), promised a government of national unity to calm things down. The ministers who were sworn in on Saturday make up, before anything else, a team of technocrats who will have to deal with a strong response on the street by Castillo’s followers (many of them see Boluarte as a traitor) and with the sword of Damocles of an all-powerful Congress. Schiappa trusts that Boluarte can handle the transitory situation until the elections are held in approximately a year’s time: “She is an extremely honest, charismatic and skillful person, but with little political experience.” However, his cabinet is, in his opinion, “quite technocratic and grey.” The new prime minister, Pedro Angulo, is a progressive lawyer, “but not a leading figure on the left.” For the sociologist Sinesio López, Boluarte and her government are prisoners of a Congress that continues to control the strings of power.

While the street burns in demand for a constituent assembly and in the palace the hourglass that will tell the time of the new government has overturned, Hannibal Torres, former premier and Castillo’s trusted man, announced on Saturday his going “underground” after the prosecution accused him of rebellion. It is the penultimate chapter of a political farce that has already accumulated numerous seasons in Peru under the same argument: perpetual ungovernability considered one of the fine arts.

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