Stalemate dampens hopes of early exit from crisis in Peru
By Carla Samon Ros
Lima, Feb 14 (EFE).- With a sterile debate in Congress on early elections and a transitional president determined to defy calls for her resignation, Peru’s political crisis seems to have settled into a stalemate, heralding a protracted period of uncertainty.
Following eight weeks of nearly continuous protests after Congress removed elected President Pedro Castillo and elevated then-Vice President Dina Boluarte to the top job, opponents of the government are less enthusiastic about taking to the streets.
Last week, according to figures from the national ombud’s office, the portion of Peru experiencing protests declined from 12 percent to 6 percent.
Yet activists continue to seethe about the deaths of nearly 50 demonstrators at the hands of police and the current informal truce could end at any moment.
Polls show that 70 percent of Peruvians want elections this year – they are scheduled for 2026 – and that 74 percent disapprove of Boluarte.
While the accidental president supports the idea of an early vote, Congress has voted down four different bills to move up the election to late 2023 or early 2024.
The most powerful bloc in the legislature, which has an even lower approval rating than Boluarte, is the right-wing Fuerza Popular, founded by disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori and now led by his daughter, three-time losing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
The leftist minority in Congress wants any measure for early elections to include provision for a referendum on Castillo’s proposal for constitutional convention, but members of the traditional parties of the center and right are instead seeking the elimination of term limits for lawmakers.
If Congress fails to approve early elections before it adjourns on Friday, a status quo that most Peruvians find unsatisfactory could persist for months or even years.
Boluarte, for her part, insists against all evidence that only a “miniscule” part of the population wants her to step down.
Though the spark for the explosion was the removal of Castillo after he tried to dissolve Congress and set elections for delegates to a constitutional convention, the underlying causes lay in decades of worsening inequality despite Peru’s vast natural wealth in the form of gold, silver, natural gas and other commodities.
The epicenter of the mobilizations has been in the southern, heavily indigenous regions of Cuzco, Puno, Ayacucho, Apurimac and Arequipa, where people turned out in large numbers in 2021 to vote for the outsider Castillo, a schoolteacher of peasant origin, against Keiko Fujimori.
All but six of the 48 deaths of demonstrators in encounters with police have taken place in the south, where protesters continue to block highways, leading to shortages of food and fuel in some cities. EFE