The short-lived presidency of Pedro Castillo and his removal have triggered a wave of protests and confusion about the future of the country.
The fall of the leftist president gave rise to Dina Boluate, Peru’s first woman president and prompted the imprisonment of Castillo, who’s politics proved divisive in the Peruvian political climate.
Castillo’s troubles began before he even came to power. Competing in a controversial election in 2021,o the left wing candidate of the Peru Libre party was attacked with labels of extremism. This included accusations of support for the Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency group primarily active in the 1980s and responsible for the deaths of 28,000 people.
His opponent was Keiko Fujimori, daughter of jailed former dictator Alberto Fujimori. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009 for the crimes of his regime which included the killing of 69,000 people during his efforts to fight off the Shining Path.
During his tenure, Castillo faced multiple impeachment attempts from those to his right over charges of moral incapacity. This is a constitutionally sanctioned reason for removal without further explanation in article 113 of the 1993 constitution, Peru’s most up to date constitution.
The 1993 constitution was notably drafted by democratic opposition in the wake of a failed self-coup by Fujimori, whose dissolution of the legislature and judiciary and jailing of opposition leaders under the guise of state security.
One part of this constitution is Article 134, which allows for the dissolution of the Congress in a specific case. If the Congress rejects the Cabinet of the president twice. Castillo was forced to make multiple changes to his cabinet during his administration under pressure from various opposition investigations, which he likely considered a justification for the dissolution effort.
However justified Castillo felt the move was, the Peruvian government did not agree and Castillo was ousted. Since then, protesters have taken the streets to call for the resignation of Interim President Dina Boluarte, new elections and a new constitution.
The protestors connection to Castillo comes from his status as a political outsider. He was seen as a champion of the poor and working class of Peru, as well as a champion of indigenous peoples.
Since protests broke out in December of 2022, it is estimated that 60 people have been killed in struggles, most have been civilians fighting the government. The security forces have responded heavy handedly, including the indiscriminate use of tear gas to quell dissent in the capital of Lima.
The government response has been a hard line defense of Boluarte’s legitimacy. Boluarte herself has claimed that the protestors are paid agitators or manipulated by outside forces, though the manipulators in question are not named.
It should be noted that these protests emerge out of a time of growing economic inequality, and that this divide rests between urban Peruvians and rural communities, which tend to be more Indigenous.
It is uncertain how long protests will last, as neither side is eager to cede ground to the opposition. Seemingly, this is the natural outcome of a long history of tension grown from decades of civil insurgency and its fallout. It is likely that this tension will drive future instability.