Like the man she replaced, she is a leftist who grew up far from the capital, closely tied to her mostly poor mountainous region.
Unlike her predecessor, however, Dina Boluarte, 60, Peru’s new president and first woman to lead the country, has no reputation for being an arsonist.
Boluarte replaced on Wednesday Peter Castillo to the presidency, after the 53-year-old tried dissolve the congress and the installation of an emergency government, a move widely condemned as an attempted coup.
“We have to talk, dialogue, reach agreements,” said Boluarte, a former vice president, in his first speech as president, in which he called for a unity government.
“I ask for time to save our country from corruption and incompetence.”
The surprising but peaceful transition was not slow to symbolize two seemingly opposite characteristics that have come to define the young Peruvian democracy:
its fragility, but also its resistance.
Over the past five years, the country has gone through you are presidents and two Congresses, while corruption scandals, impeachment proceedings and deep divisions undermined the government’s ability to function simply.
However, when Castillo, a former teacher and union activist, declared that he was creating a new government that would govern by decree, it seemed to go too far.
Within hours his ministers resigned en masse, the military and national police refused to back him, he was promptly arrested, and Boluarte took office.
The political drama reflects a broader trend across Latin America, according to analysts.
Corruption, widespread frustration with growing inequality and long-standing anger against the elite have fueled distrust and populism across the region.
These factors have led to repeated tests of often young democracies, breeding extremist candidates and leaders who sow mistrust in election results, in some cases adopting the former president’s playbook. Donald Trump.
But while some countries, such as Venezuela and Nicaraguahave fallen into autocracy, democracy has recently shown its resistance in countries such as Brazil and Colombiawho held elections this year that called into question the soundness of their institutions.
“They’re not thriving,” said Steve Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard University, of Latin American democracies, “but they’re surviving, and that’s no mean feat.”
Castillo was being held at a naval base on the outskirts of Lima, the capital, where he is being charged with “rebellion,” according to prosecutors.
He appeared at an initial court hearing on Thursday, in which a judge approved a request to detain the former president for at least a week while the case against him is prepared.
Guillermo Olivera, a lawyer who told local media he represented Castillo, called the former president’s detention “horribly arbitrary, illegal and criminal.”
In an interview, US Ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna praised the institutional response to Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress, calling it a “victory for democracy in Peru.”
But others in the region defended him, including the Mexican president Andrés López Obradorwhich described the firing of Castillo de “soft hit“, serving the interests of the elites.
“Since the beginning of Pedro Castillo’s legitimate presidency, a climate of confrontation and hostility has been maintained towards him until decisions were made that served his opponents to consummate his dismissal,” the president wrote on Twitter. Mexican.
On Thursday evening, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said his government was reviewing a asylum request of Castle.
Boluarte is originally from the Apurímac department, in the central-south of the country, a region with an indigenous majority and Quechua language.
Lawyer and public official, he worked for 15 years in the country’s national registry office, the ministry that issues identity cards and manages birth, marriage, divorce and death records.
The National Registry is politically autonomous from the rest of the government, and several Peruvian political analysts say it is generally considered a efficient and technocratic institution.
Boluarte belonged to a Marxist political party but broke with it after a disagreement with its leader, telling Caretas magazine:
“Like thousands of Peruvian men and women, I am a leftist, but a democratic leftist, not a totalitarian or sectarian one.”
He praised a type of politics “that allows for divergence and criticism” and not “where there are no infallible or untouchable leaders”.
In 2021 Boluarte ran for Castillo, of which she was vice president and minister of development and social inclusion.
When he was sworn in last year, he announced he would be taking office to serve “the nobody”.
But she stepped down from the ministry after the president formed his latest cabinet last month, though she remained a vice president.
He was quick to criticize the former president’s call to shut down Congress on Wednesday, saying on Twitter:
“I reject Pedro Castillo’s decision to perpetrate the rupture of the constitutional order by closing down Congress. It is a coup d’état.”
Like Castillo, Boluarte had never been elected to political office before 2021.
She ran for mayor of part of Lima in 2018 and for Congress in the primaries in 2020, losing both races.
But he’s been in government for years.
Gonzalo Banda, a political analyst and columnist, described Boluarte as one of the more stable figures in Castillo’s volatile government.
“After a year in government, a year and a half, she’s not an unknown,” he said.
“On the contrary, I think he is someone who will know how to navigate the quicksand of Peruvian power.”
She’ll have an uphill battle in Congress now that she’s in open conflict with the party she and Castillo are running for.
Carlos Reyna, who worked with Boluarte for nine years at the national registry office, described her as gregarious with polite formality.
He doesn’t recall her ever attracting attention and was surprised to see her enter politics.
He was optimistic about his ability to assume the presidency and encouraged by his calls for respite and understanding in his first speech.
“It’s something people really need right now in Peru,” said Reyna, who is now a social sciences professor at San Marcos University in Lima.
“I think he has what it takes to be able to do it well.”
The streets of Lima and other cities were mostly calm on Thursday, following a day in which some Castillo supporters took to the streets in scattered protests.
In half a dozen interviews, most people said they supported the institutional rejection Castillo’s attempt to shut down the government.
But few believed that Boluarte was capable of ushering in a new era of faith in Peruvian democracy.
Patricia Díaz, 46, who works as a receptionist at an apartment building in Lima, called the peaceful transition of power a “relief” but said she had little hope for Boluarte.
Anyone who enters government “with good intentions,” Diaz said, “is corrupt.”
Jacelin Tuesta, 39, a cigarette vending machine clerk, said she didn’t see Boluarte as anything different from past politicians.
“But she’s new and we’ll have faith,” Tuesta said.
“She’s a woman, so maybe she has another point of view.”
In an interview, Noam Lupu, associate director of Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project, called Peru’s transition of power a positive development, but warned against celebrating it too much.
He noted that his research shows Peruvians are very dissatisfied with democracy, believe most politicians are corrupt, and have a high tolerance for coups.
He questioned whether Peruvian democracy lasts “because there are certain underlying structural and institutional characteristics that will ensure its survival.”
Or, he said, “Does it survive because no one really capable of galvanizing discontent has arrived?”
c.2022 The New York Times Company
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.