On 7 December, the former president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, was removed from office by the Peruvian Congress after a failed coup attempt. This event sparked a series of nationwide protests, which have so far left more than 25 people dead, including minors. But what are the Peruvian people demanding?
The main demand is the resignation of the current president Dina Boluarte, who has so far repressed the protesters by giving freedom to the Peruvian army and the police to disperse any demonstration against the government using any measure of force, which is anti-democratic. It also calls for the elections to be brought forward to the current year (it has been approved to be brought forward to April 2024), the dissolution of the congress and the creation of a new constituent assembly.
Last weekend, during protests in the city of Juliaca, capital of the department of Puno, a series of police abuses were reported, including an injured reporter, who said the following:
“At around 3 o’clock in the afternoon I was covering the protests, where I was recording (photographing) demonstrators and the police. I was on the wall of that bypass (level crossing), on the edge, to be able to see the confrontation between the police and the demonstrators. At that moment I was sending photos, I stopped to look at my mobile phone and I saw that I was hit by a blunt object. When it hit me, my leg went numb and then it started to bleed through my trousers. I pull up my trousers and I see a hole (at that moment), I was calm and also scared. When the demonstrators noticed it, some said it was buckshot, others said it was a bullet, but I didn’t really know what it was. They carried me to a little market ten steps away and there they began to treat me with bandages, clean the blood and put a tourniquet on my leg.”
The journalist received police threats, including death threats. This is a serious violation of human rights and an aggression towards the independent media, who in view of the lack of biased reporting by the mainstream media, report by getting involved in the protests and taking pictures of the various acts of violence that are taking place. However, this is only one of several events that have been recorded.
Demonstrations at the national level show human rights violations in the form of arbitrary arrests, use of tear gas, use of firearms by the police. Some of the deaths recorded during Dina Boluarte’s first month in office have been civilians who have been trying to help injured demonstrators. The constant repression has left children, adults and elderly people dead, without leaving dialogue open.
Protesting is a right. No human being should be violated for raising his or her voice against a regime. What is happening in Peru is a dictatorship: a president who uses force to silence the voice of the people, no space for dialogue to reach an agreement with the citizens, police who abuse their power, media that transmit messages of hatred towards the demonstrators.
Social inequality in Peru has always been latent. Today the forgotten voices are making themselves heard in the midst of a centralist, unequal and classist country. Infringing their rights through aggression and death only further widens the existing inequality gap. It is necessary to raise our voices to ensure that the right to protest is respected, however, through a dictatorship it is unfortunate to know that the only thing that is guaranteed is repression and death.
Ana Claudia Baltazar Diaz