Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 583, 19 January 2023

Peru: Fresh protests and continuing political crisis
Madhura Mahesh

In the news
On 14 January, President Dina Boluarte extended the state of emergency for another month in Lima, Puno and Cusco, granting the police special powers and limiting freedoms such as the right to assembly. In the southern region of Puno, the security measures also include a 10-day curfew. Boluarte apologised for the casualties and called for peace but said that she would not be resigning.
 
On 13 January, Attorney General Patricia Benavides announced that 11 inquiries were opened to identify the actors responsible for the 42 deaths during the worst outbreak of violence in 20 years. Benavides added that the investigations will mostly be conducted in Lima and the southern regions of Puno, Cusco, Arequipa, Apurimac and Ucayali. The Attorney General’s office reported that 355 civilians and 176 police officers have been injured and 329 citizens have been arrested since the protests began in December 2022.
 
Issues at large
First, Pedro Castillo's impeachment as the trigger to protests. On 7 December, protests began in Peru after former President Pedro Castillo was impeached and subsequently arrested on rebellion charges. The protesters took to the streets calling for Bolurtae’s resignation, a new constitution and fresh elections. The protesters set up blockades, set fires on public buildings and vehicles, and attacked police stations. Due to this on 14 December, former Peruvian Defence Minister Alberto Otarola declared a state of emergency throughout Peru.    
 
Second, new protest hotspots. On 4 January, protesters resumed in Lima and Arequipa after a two-week break. In the second wave of protests, Peru’s southern region saw a rise in the number of protests and casualties. On 10 January, Peru witnessed the deadliest day in the anti-government protests with 17 casualties in Juliaca in Puno after protestors clashed with the police; 68 people were injured. This also marked the renewed fight by protestors in Southern Peru, Castillo’s stronghold, who claimed that this was an “endless battle.” The second wave of protest has largely been located in the south in the Puno region.
 
Third, accusations of foreign influence. On 5 January, Defence Minister Jorge Chavez claimed that the new wave of protest was encouraged by foreigners. Chavez said: “They have entered not only intending to stir up violence but also to integrate this separatist idea of a part of our region in the country.” Subsequently, the Peruvian government announced that Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales and eight other individuals were banned from entering Peru. Morales supports Castillo and has criticised the government for Castillo’s arrest and impeachment. Morales criticised the move and said: "Now they attack us to distract and dodge responsibility for grave violations of the human rights of our Peruvian brothers.”
 
In perspective
First, the expanding nature of the protests. The protestor’s demands have expanded due to the increased involvement of leaders from southern Peru. Along with the resignation of Bolurtae, the dissolution of the Congress and fresh elections, the protestors are demanding a new constitution. The demand for a new constitution is not new as the indigenous community has repeatedly demanded one to remove market-friendly policies introduced in the 1990s.
 
Second, the significance of southern Peru. Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer, and most of its mines are located in the southern region. These mines are repeatedly exposed to protests by the indigenous population but the new protest has led to mines closing down or operating at a limited capacity for security reasons. This has affected the supply of metals and led to prices being volatile in the markets. One of Peru’s largest copper mines Glencore Plc in Antapaccay, Cusco was recently attacked by protestors and is now operating at a limited capacity trying to increase the safety of the remaining workers.   

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