Dina Boluarte: Can the president of Peru achieve a truce with the protesters?


When Dina Boluarte was anointed From Peru The sixth president in five years, she faced battles on two fronts: appeasing lawmakers who had ousted her boss and predecessor Pedro Castillo, and calming protesters angry over the ouster of another president.

She called for a “political truce” with Congress on her first day on the job, a peace offer to the legislature that had been at loggerheads with Castillo and impeached him in December after he undemocratically tried to dissolve Congress.

But nearly two months later, his presidency seems even more under siege than Castillo’s aborted term. Several ministers in his government have resigned as the country has been rocked by the most violent protests in decades. She was forced to once again call for a truce on Tuesday, this time appealing to the protesters, many of whom hail from rural Peru’s indigenous majority, saying in Quechua that she is one of them.

Boluarte, who was born in a largely indigenous region in south-central Peru where Quechua is the most widely spoken language, could have been the leader in channeling the protesters’ frustrations and working with them. He has placed great importance on his rural origins and came to power initially as castle vice president on the ticket of the left-wing Peru Libre party, driven by the rural and indigenous vote.

But his call for mutual understanding with the protesters now is probably too late in what analysts are calling the deadliest popular uprising in South America in recent years. Authorities say 56 civilians and a police officer were killed in the violence, and hundreds more injured, as protesters call for new elections, a new constitution and Boluarte’s resignation.

Boluarte has tried to placate the protesters, asking Congress for an earlier election date. But Peru watchers say she and she made the fatal mistake of distancing herself from rural voters after assuming the top job as Peru’s first female president.

“One has to understand Boluarte’s own ambitions, she was clearly willing to sacrifice her left-wing ideas and principles to build a coalition with the right to hold on to power,” Jo-Marie Burt, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America . and an expert on Peru, he told CNN. “And use force against the same people who voted for the Castillo-Boluarte ticket.”

Castillo’s brief tenure saw him face a hostile Congress in the hands of the opposition, which limited his political capital and ability to operate. “(Boluarte) had to make a decision: either she went down the path of Castillo and spent the next four years fighting against a Congress that wants to remove her, or she sided with the right and came to power,” said Alonso Gurmendi, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, who is a Peruvian legal expert, told CNN.

The country has been rocked by the most violent protests in decades following the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo.

She chose the latter, experts say, distancing herself from Castillo and relying instead on the support of a broad coalition of right-wing politicians to stay in office. CNN has reached out to Boluarte’s office for comment and has repeatedly requested an interview.

During his inauguration, former political rival Keiko Fujimori – whose father Alberto Fujimori is a former president who used security forces to suppress opponents during his decade-long rule in Peru – said boluarte he could “count on the support and backing” of his party.

Boluarte’s troubles are a long way from her early days in the Peruvian civil service, working at the National Registry of Identification and Civil Status in Surco, as an adviser to senior management and, later, as head of the local office.

She ran as a candidate for mayor of Surquillo with the Marxist-Leninist Peru Libre Party in 2018. She failed to win a seat in the 2020 parliamentary elections, but had better luck the following year, as Castillo’s running mate.

In an interview with Cnn in Spanish That year, Boluarte clarified a statement he made on the dissolution of Congress: “We need a Congress that works for the needs of Peruvian society and that positively coordinates with the executive so that both branches of the State can work in a coordinated manner to attend to the multiple needs of Peruvian society. We do not want an obstructionist Congress… At no time have I said that we are going to close Congress.”

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader, was also from rural Peru and positioned himself as a man of the people. Despite his political inexperience and mounting corruption scandals, Castillo’s presidency was a symbolic victory for many of his rural supporters. They hoped he would bring better prospects to the country’s rural and indigenous population who have long felt left out of Peru’s economic boom of the past decade.

Indigenous women take part in a protest against the Boluarte government in Lima on January 24.

His removal from power last year was seen by some of his supporters as another attempt by Peru’s coastal elites to disparage them.

the public has long time disillusioned with the legislative body, which has been criticized for being selfish and out of touch. In a January survey conducted by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) more than 80% of Peruvians say they disapprove of Congress.

The public also has a low opinion of Boluarte, according to an IPSOS poll, which found 68% disapproved of her in December. That figure rose to 71% in January, according to the survey. She is most unpopular in rural areas, according to the same poll, which found she had an 85% disapproval rating in rural regions in January compared to urban areas (76%).

In January 2022, Peru Libre expelled she from the party she told her a peruvian daily The Republic at that time she “had never embraced the ideology of Free Peru.”

As protests spread across many of Peru’s 25 regions following Castillo’s arrest, the Boluarte government declared a state of emergency and stepped up public order policies.

Since then, the country has seen its highest number of civilian deaths since dictator Alberto Fujimori was in power, human rights advocates say, when 17 civilians were killed during a protest in the southeastern region of Puno on January 9. . A police officer was burned to death in Puno the next day. Autopsies of the 17 dead civilians found wounds caused by gunshots, the city’s chief forensic medicine said. Cnn in Spanish.

human rights groups have accused Boluarte of using state violence to hinder protests, and on January 11, Peru’s prosecutor launched an investigation against the president and other key ministers for the alleged crime of “genocide, qualified homicide, and serious injuries” in connection with the oil spill. blood.

Boluarte has said he will cooperate with the investigation, but plans to remain in office and has shown little sympathy for the protesters. “I am not going to resign, my commitment is with Peru, not with that little group that is making the country bleed,” he said in a televised speech days after the investigation was announced.

Boluarte has tried to placate the protesters, asking Congress for an earlier election date.

Asked why he hasn’t stopped security officials from using lethal weapons against protesters, Boluarte said Tuesday that investigations will determine where the bullets “come” from, speculating without evidence that Bolivian activists may have brought weapons into Peru. , a statement that Burt describes. as “a total conspiracy theory”.

Boluarte has done little to alleviate the angry rhetoric deployed by public officials, parts of the press, and the public in criticizing the ongoing demonstrations. Boluarte herself described the protests as “terrorism,” a label that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) warned could instigate a “climate of more violence.”

He inflamed tensions again during Tuesday’s press conference. When asked how he planned to implement a national truce, he said that attempts at dialogue with representatives in the Puno region had been unsuccessful. “We have to protect the life and tranquility of 33 million Peruvians. Puno is not Peru, ”he said. At least 20 civilians have been killed in clashes in the region, according to data from Peru’s Ombudsman’s Office, and the comment sparked immediate backlash online.

The presidential office later apologized for the statement. On twitter, to say that Boluarte’s words were misinterpreted, and that the president wanted to emphasize that the safety of all Peruvians was important. “We apologize to the sisters and brothers in our beloved mountainous region,” he wrote.

With the protests showing no end in sight, Boluarte on Wednesday toned down the inflammatory rhetoric when he spoke at a special meeting on the Peruvian crisis at the Organization of American States (OAS).

He announced plans to investigate alleged security force abuses against protesters, adding that while he respected the “legitimate right to peaceful protest, it is also true that the state has a duty to guarantee security and internal order.”

The violence had caused about $1 billion in damage to the country and affected 240,000 businesses, but she was “deeply hurt” by the “loss of life of many compatriots,” she said.

Boluarte, once again, appealed to his old voter base, the indigenous Peruvians. “You are the great force that we must include to achieve development with equity,” he said. “Their contributions to national development should be valued as much as their strength.”

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