Early elections, vacancy motion or dissolution of the Congress are some of the possible solutions to the political crisis in Peru, none of them flattering for Pedro Castillo, who recently arrived to his first year in power.
However, these options do not represent an escape from the deep and profound instability this nation has been experiencing for a long time; only that the 52-year-old rural teacher is now the one on the spotlight.
Castillo’s first year in office has been stormy, characterized by multiple and continuous obstacles to the point several experts have agreed he would not be able to serve the five years for which he was elected. Apparently, in that country, each new appointment seems like deja vu, as the same thing has happened with the few last heads of state.
US policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean continued in a seamless transition from Trump to Biden, but the terrain over which it operated shifted left. The balance between the US drive to dominate its “backyard” and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, continued to tip portside in 2021 with major popular electoral victories in Chile, Honduras, and Peru. These follow the previous year’s reversal of the coup in Bolivia.
Central has been the struggle of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) countries – particularly Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua – against the asphyxiating US blockade and other regime-change measures. Presidential candidate Biden pledged to review Trump’s policy of US sanctions against a third of humanity. The presumptive intention of the review was to ameliorate the human suffering caused by these unilateral coercive measures, considered illegal under international law. Following the review, Biden has instead tightened the screws, more effectively weaponizing the COVID crisis.
This last week was one of the tensest since Pedro Castillo became Peru’s president last May. The Congress, with a right-wing member’s majority, is eager to disarm the executive branch, so they can technically annul Castillo’s electoral triumph over the extreme right candidate Keiko Fujimori.
For those who do not follow the South American country’s internal policies, this may seem like a last-minute move from the right sectors, but it is not. The coup was immediately set into motion once Castillo won the presidential runoff early this year.
The first step was to cast doubts over his electoral victory, and clearly and strongly divide the country over this issue. To do so, Keiko Fujimori spread accusations of systematic fraud in the polling stations where Castillo won, and fill the media with this argument to poison the public opinion against the leftist candidate. At the same time, she filed appeals to throw out 200,000 votes, mainly in impoverished rural areas, before the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) to delay as much as possible Castillo’s legal victory. However, they could not succeed, which must not be interpreted as they did not cause damage to the reputation of the recently elected president in the process.
A controversial cabinet reshuffle this week has served to show just how difficult it can be to implement radical and redistributive change. President Pedro Castillo won Peru’s June 6th elections in the second round. His flagship policies were; a new constitution and the nationalization of natural resources. The expulsion of US forces (military bases, USAID, DEA) was also part of the winning manifesto. However, all those promises have run up against corporate interests, which appear to have forced the government into a corner following the controversial cabinet reshuffle.
When President Castillo was officially sworn in, in July, he made clear his intention to carry out the changes Peruvians voted for. He appointed Guido Bellido, as Prime Minister; an indigenous Quechua and a senior leader of the socialist Peru Libre party. Marxist professor Hector Bejar was appointed Foreign Minister. His first act as Minister was to withdraw from the anti-Venezuela ‘Lima Group’, leaving it without its headquarters.
However, the pressure began to be felt from day one. Every single national media outlet aggressively attacked President Castillo for choosing Bellido. Even the liberal La Republica newspaper employed the same McCarthyite language to implore Castillo to incorporate liberal establishment figures from the former administrations.
Peru’s opposition parties in Congress, Renovación Popular and Avanza Pais, have released a joint statement calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Guido Bellido for saying that the country’s natural gas reserves will be nationalized.
The statement reads that public control of the country’s own natural resources is an “authoritarian attitude that puts at grave risk our legal security of investments in the country”. The text goes on to say that the opposition will use Congress to “stop and defeat every threat of nationalization because they drive away foreign and national investment”.
Abimael Guzmán, the historic leader of the Shining Path, died on Saturday at the age of 86 in Peru while serving a life sentence in the maximum security prison of the Callao Naval Base. Also known by the name “comrade Gonzalo,” Guzmán died due to a generalized infection at the Naval Hospital, where he was being treated for deterioration in his health.
A former philosophy professor, he had been serving a life sentence for terrorism and treason since 1992. In 1969 Abimael Guzmán and 11 others founded the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish), a guerrilla group of Maoist influences which tried to lead a “people’s war” to overthrow Peru’s bourgeois democracy.
We have sound and clear signals from Latin America that its people want progressive anti-imperialist governments that promote real democracy, sovereignty and well-being for all, and not only for a small minority of privileged oligarchs. They have realised that the US imposed capitalist-centred neoliberal model does not work. Peruvians have also joined recently in this left-wing movement, together with Mexicans, Argentinians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Bolivians, Nicaraguans, with the election of working class Pedro Castillo as president. If Washington was hoping to see a coup by the Keiko Fujimori faction taking place in Lima, like it happened in Bolivia in 2019 by the opponents of Evo Morales, the wait was in vain and likely disappointing.
The accommodation of the Peruvian president, Pedro Castillo, woke up today under reinforced security, after the attempt by a group of violent protesters to reach the house, while the early political siege of the president grows.
The Chief of Police, General César Cervantes, specified that the president’s safety is guaranteed, after a group of approximately 300 right-wing protesters reached up to a block from the president’s house.
Almost a month and a half after the second round of presidential elections in Peru, the National Jury of Elections (JNE), on July 19, proclaimed Pedro Castillo of the left-wing Free Peru party as the winner of the run-off and the next president of the Republic. The JNE also proclaimed Dina Boluarte as the first vice president of the country.
After resolving and declaring unfounded the last appeals for annulment of votes presented by Castillo’s opponent, Keiko Fujimori of the far-right Popular Force party, alleging irregularities and fraud in the electoral process, the JNE announced that Castillo secured 50.126% of the votes, while Fujimori obtained 49.874% of the votes. Castillo won the elections with a narrow margin, receiving 44,263 more votes than his rival. The new head of state and his vice-presidents will be sworn in on July 28, the bicentennial of Peru’s independence from Spain.
Minutes after the official announcement, thousands of supporters of Castillo, gathered outside the party’s headquarters in Lima to celebrate his historic victory. Castillo addressed the citizens and thanked them for their support. He also thanked the electoral authorities for their work and called on the opposition forces to unite for a better Peru.
Congratulations President Pedro Castillo Terrones! We salute him from Cuba and wish him success in his management, wrote on Twitter the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel
After a wait of more than 40 days since the completion of the second electoral round, the candidate of the Peru Libre party, the teacher Pedro Castillo Terrones, was officially proclaimed, on Monday night, as the new president of Peru.
Congratulations President Pedro Castillo Terrones! We salute him from Cuba and wish him success in his management, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel, wrote on Twitter.