The discontent in the southern Andes of Peru, which erupted last December in the region where the Inca empire was born centuries ago, has been unleashed the largest social mobilisations of the 21st century in this South American country, which has already caused more than fifty deaths in just over a month.
A large demonstration, with the majority participation of the inhabitants of the Andean areas of the country, arrived in Lima on Thursday to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and early elections. Authorities have deployed a massive security operation in the Peruvian capital with nearly 12,000 police officers on the streets to prevent riots and vandalism.
The protests have been going on for more than a month, almost unabated, and despite the government’s attempts to calm the spirits, the end of the crisis does not seem close.
What ignited the anger of thousands of indigenous people? Here, some keys.
1- Autocoup and dismissal
The trigger was the rejection of the sudden deposition on December 7 of Congress of center-left President Pedro Castillo in a failed coup in which he tried to close the right-wing majority Parliament, rule by decree and convene a Constituent Assembly .
The firing came hours before lawmakers voted on a motion to remove Castillo, who the prosecutor’s office was investigating for corruption. After a judge sentenced him to 18 months in custody for the crime of flagrant rebellion. The former president is still in prison.
Vice-President Dina Boluarte, who had been removed from Castillo, replaced him, according to the law. But popular repudiation of the bloody crackdown on protests he relegated Castillo to the background, promoting the call for the resignation of the new president and the closure of Congress.
The protests began in “deep Peru”, the Andean areas of southern Peru, and spread to Lima.
One of the key factors is the feeling of discrimination and the poor quality of daily life, political analyst Mirko Lauer told AFP.
“It is an ancient, complex discontent. These are people who bear the fury and pain of having been victims of the feudal system, of having had to be separated from their families due to internal migrations (in search of better living conditions), of having been victims of radicalism and reactionism. Discontent doesn’t work as a political program but as a cry of anger from the heart,” he explains.
Historian Antonio Zapata believes that “identity” issues also largely explain the protests. The peasants imagined that they had “one of their own” in power with Castillo, a rural master and union leader of Andean origin.
“He represented rural Peru…[the protests]say they took away our historic opportunity,” Zapata claims in the newspaper The Republic.
That sector of the peasants he also calls for the closure of Parliament because he estimates that “he did not let the ousted president govern”. “That population judges that it is not right that those who screwed up with Professor Castillo should govern,” reflects Zapata.
Added to this the request for a constituent assembly to draw up a Magna Carta to replace the one of 1993, which consecrates the market economy as the axis of development, the root of social inequalities from his point of view. This was Castillo’s main campaign promise.
“Polarization is one of the causes of the protests, it is not ideological: it is that of the ‘Lima establishment'” against the poor provinces of the south, said Carlos Meléndez, a political scientist and professor at the Diego Portales University in Chile AFP.
This is explained by the centralism of Peru, where the Andean or Amazonian regions have benefited least from the economic “boom” of the last 30 years.
On the establishment side are the formal economy, right-wing parties, law enforcement, media corporations, the upper middle classes, and the country’s industrialized north coast.
On the other side there is a coalition “that has powers of its own such as the illegal economy (smuggling, drug trafficking, mining), which overlap with left-wing radicalism, trade unions and the political arm of the Maoist guerrilla Sendero Luminoso”, explains Meléndez. .
4- Political fragmentation
Added to this is “the fragmentation and multiplication of mini-parties, without social support, which create the absence of interlocutors”.
“We had an important phase of growth that began to end in 2016, coinciding with the political turbulence that broke out that year with the war between Congress and the Executive Power, then the pandemic arrived and poverty increased by 10 points”, economist and analyst Augusto Alvarez Rodrich described to AFP.
“This has exacerbated the situation (in the Andean regions) and is what expresses the unease that exists in the country, where we have a faceless protest, without leadership,” he added.
During the economic boom, poverty dropped from over 40% to 10% in three decades before skyrocketing to its current 26% in 2022.
The Andean protests have a globalizing element: discontent with the elites. And the populism in vogue, left or right, is built on hatred of the elites, reflects Lauer.
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.