Weekly Report - 26 January 2023 (WR-23-04)

PERU: Left moves to impeach Boluarte

Deputies from left-wing parties in Peru’s congress presented an impeachment motion against President Dina Boluarte for permanent moral incapacity on 25 January over the high level of fatalities in the protests that followed her assumption of power on 7 December. This is the first concerted effort to remove Boluarte from the position she filled in accordance with the constitutional succession after the impeachment of her predecessor Pedro Castillo (2020-2021) for an attempted self-coup. At present Boluarte has sufficient support from right-wing parties to ensure that the high two-thirds threshold for impeachment in the 130-seat congress is not reached, but even if the motion is only debated it will damage her image and could lead to further unrest from protesters convinced she is being propped up by the right.

The impeachment motion against President Boluarte is being pushed by deputies from Perú Libre (PL), the radical left-wing party that brought Castillo to power, which now has 15 seats in congress, and two more moderate leftist parties, Perú Democrático and Cambio Democrático, with five seats apiece. “Never in the history of Peru has a government in so little time - a month in power - killed more than forty people in protests,” the motion read. It accused the government of resorting to “disproportionate use of force” against protesters and argued that if morals were taken to mean “the laws, principles, and values established in a society” then Boluarte had demonstrated the “moral incapacity” to warrant impeachment.

The motion received 28 votes of support, two more than necessary to be filed, and will require 52 votes (40%) to be admitted to a debate and a vote on impeachment. A two-thirds majority of 87 for the impeachment to prosper is unlikely at present, but the right-wing parties sustaining Boluarte have no political affiliation with her, and their support could prove fickle.

Cambio Democrático also presented a bill for presidential and congressional elections, already brought forward from April 2026 to April 2024, to be brought even further forward to October this year. It said the decision to allow Boluarte to remain in power until July 2024 had not succeeded in defusing tensions, which had also been fuelled by her government’s decision to “opt for a repressive and anti-democratic response [to the protests] that has claimed 45 lives and left 1,200 people injured”. The party said that if Boluarte were to stay in power for another 18 months it would cause “a negative long-term impact” on the perception of democracy in Peru for a significant part of the country.

Congress has already voted against a bill to move elections forward to 2023, days before it agreed to bring them forward to April 2024. It could still revisit the matter of course. Congress is coming under intense pressure to expedite the electoral process. The president of congress, José Williams, of the right-wing Avanza País, announced last week that the next session of congress would be brought forward from 1 March to 15 February in order to hold the requisite second vote on holding elections two years ahead of time. This week Williams extended the current session of congress until 10 February to push through further constitutional and electoral reforms.

International reaction

There are signs that regional support for Boluarte will begin to fade unless she takes some different steps to resolve the country’s political crisis beyond police repression of the protests. “There is an overriding need for a change of direction in Peru,” Chile’s President Gabriel Boric said during the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) hosted by Argentina on 24 January. Boric has recognised the legitimacy of the impeachment of Castillo and the succession of Boluarte. “The net result of the path of violence and repression - since the failed self-coup of former president Pedro Castillo - is unacceptable,” Boric said, adding that Chile could not be “indifferent when…people who are marching to make demands that they consider to be fair end up being shot by those who should defend them”.

The foreign minister, Ana Gervasi, who attended the Celac summit, expressed regret that some countries had not “accompanied Peru” since Castillo’s self-coup attempt. The Boluarte administration announced on 26 January that it was recalling its ambassador to Honduras indefinitely, criticising the “unacceptable intervention in [Peru’s] internal affairs” by President Xiomara Castro during her address at the Celac summit. Castro denounced “a coup d’état” in Peru, declaring Castillo to be the legitimate president, and calling for his “immediate release” from jail.

Boluarte made a virtual appearance in an extraordinary session of the permanent council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on 25 January during which she said she had taken note of the comments of her peers during the Celac summit. Boluarte reiterated her commitment to bringing elections forward, saying that she had urged congress to approve the necessary constitutional reform as quickly as possible.

Boluarte said little to suggest she is contemplating a change of course. She insisted that her government was defending the right to peaceful protest. But Boluarte offered no prospect of dialogue with peaceful protesters with legitimate grievances. Instead, she said she would not “surrender to authoritarian groups that want to impose solutions that fall outside the constitutional order”. She also maintained that her government had to “safeguard law and order”, while adding that if there had been any abuses by members of the security forces they would be held accountable.

Police raid Lima university

Boluarte’s comments came days after some 300 anti-riot police used a tankette to burst on to the campus of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM) in Lima early on 21 January. From 19 January the UNMSM had served as a refuge for hundreds of protesters from southern Peru that had taken part in the so-called ‘seizure of Lima’ [WR-23-03]. Videos of the incident showed police rounding up people, forcing them to lie on the ground and threatening them. In total 192 people were arrested, accused of “aggravated usurpation, damage to property, and theft”. The ombudsperson Eliana Revollar responded by saying that prosecutors should have accompanied the police. “In a state of emergency human rights must be guaranteed,” Revollar said. The interior minister, Vicente Romero, meanwhile, denied that the police operation had been sanctioned by the government and said he found out about it while watching the television.

Almost 12,000 police officers were deployed in the capital in response to the rallying call on social media for protesters from the regions to ‘seize Lima’ on 19 January. Unlike in the regions, police did not use firearms, and prevented protesters from reaching congress and the presidential palace. Boluarte accused the protesters in Lima of “trying to create chaos and take power”, and of being “bad citizens looking to break the rule of law”. She insisted her government would remain “firm” and that the cabinet was “more united than ever”. These words rang hollow when the production minister, Sandra Belaúnde, resigned on 25 January, the sixth member of the cabinet to resign since the protests began. She is unlikely to be the last.

Ica protests

There were some intense clashes in the southern region of Ica on 25 January with at least 57 police officers and six civilian protesters reported injured when security forces tried to clear roadblocks on the Panamericana Sur highway. Some 80 protesters attacked three agro-export companies in Ica this week amid signs that the roadblocks erected by protesters in 27 provinces across the country are causing food shortages and price increases of several basic products.

Police raid

The police raid on the UNMSM campus evoked some unsettling comparisons with a similar raid on 21 May 1991 by the armed forces under the authoritarian government led by Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). And it was a Fujimorista deputy, Ernesto Bustamente of Fuerza Popular (FP), who responded to the police raid by saying it was “encouraging to see the police lower the black and white rag hoisted by terrorists taking refuge in San Marcos [the black replacing the red on Peru’s national flag to mourn the fatalities during the protests]. All that remains is for them to seize and burn the Bolivian flags being waved in their ‘peaceful marches’ and kick them back to Puno and Bolivia.”

Intelligence Research Ltd.
167-169 Great Portland Street,
5th floor,
London, W1W 5PF - UK
Phone : +44 (0) 203 695 2790
You may contact us via our online contact form
Copyright © 2022 Intelligence Research Ltd. All rights reserved.