Class War in Peru
Tourists visiting Machu Picchu had to be evacuated by helicopter because protesters had used rocks to block trains that run to Cusco since Tuesday.
The US embassy in Lima said there were “unconfirmed reports of a general strike in the Cusco area … which will affect transportation in the city and may impact airport arrivals and departures”. It added there could be of “roadblocks, traffic congestion, warning “demonstrations can be unpredictable and quickly turn violent”.
The airport in Peru’s second-largest city, Arequipa, reopened on Monday and several hundred tourists who were stranded by the nationwide protests are expected to be able to fly to the capital Lima, on commercial flights
Arequipa is just one of at least five airports that were shut down by protestors.
A day earlier, soldiers had opened fire on stone-throwing protesters, who tried to storm the local airport’s runway, killing at least eight and injuring more than 70 in running battles, as helicopters rained teargas canisters and bullets over the city.
At least 20 people have been killed by security forces so far. The violence has caused two ministers to resign so far.
Two ministers resigned in protest, one of them – the education minister, Patricia Correa – wrote on Twitter that “state violence cannot be disproportionate and cause death”. Peru’s human rights ombudsman’s office said a criminal complaint had been filed to determine the responsibility, without giving further details.
...By Friday afternoon, the smoke of burning buildings and teargas hung over Huamanga once more, as demonstrators torched judicial buildings – for many, symbols of an incurably corrupt state – and returned to storm the airport runway. This time they were repelled by riot police; the soldiers had been called back to their barracks.
Around the same time, Peru’s congress – the target of collective anger across the country – voted to reject a bill to bring forward the elections to 2023, one of the protesters’ principal demands.
Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, was vice president until earlier this month when her predecessor, former President Pedro Castillo, was removed from office and then detained after illegally trying to dissolve Congress.
Boluarte will replace the prime minister as part of a reshuffling of her Cabinet, she said on Sunday. Boluarte's crack-down has been brutal.
Since taking power, Boluarte has imposed curfews in some cities and suspended some civil liberties like the right to free movement within the country and to assembly amid the ongoing unrest. In what has turned out to be an incredibly volatile situation, some Latin American political leaders, as well as Amnesty International, say Boluarte and the police forces have overstepped their bounds.
The entire political establishment refused to work with Castillo from the very beginning. They had already tried to impeach Castillo twice before. Castillo was unprepared for the unified opposition to his very existence. He kept trying to cut deals with people that would never accept anything but his resignation.
There was corruption within Castillo's government, but nothing different from the governments that came before him.
Castillo was marginally a Marxist, which the ruling elite would not tolerate. But even worse, Castillo actually intended to represent the poor people of Peru, and that was unforgivable. Which is why Castillo is now serving 18 months in prison for crimes that most of Peru's former presidents never served a day in prison for, along with his former prime minister, Anibal Torres.
Castillo was Peru’s first campesino president, the child of illiterate farmers and a former farmer, teacher, and union leader in whom many of Peru’s rural population saw themselves represented. In a highly stratified society, Castillo’s supporters from the Andean and other rural regions see him as “an ordinary man from the countryside,” as supporter Enrique Salazar told Al Jazeera.
While there is a left-right dynamic here, the overriding theme is the ruling class versus everyone else.
“[Castillo] represented the forgotten ones like us, from the provinces,” said Huamani, 58, who resides in Lima, where she pushes a food cart through the city’s sprawling outskirts. “But Congress never let him govern.”
Experts say several factors beyond the latest political crisis are fuelling the unrest, including a deep, cultural rift between the businesses and political classes in Lima, and residents of Peru’s Andean and Amazonian hinterlands who feel betrayed by a widely loathed Congress.
These regions also have experienced years of bubbling anger and frustration over the failure of anaemic state institutions to provide basic services, such as security, healthcare and education, beyond the capital.
“There is a very old marginalisation and centralisation in Lima, and as a result, a government with very little concern for delivering basic public services,” Jorge Aragon, a professor of political science at Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University, told Al Jazeera.