Protests in Peru: Castilla orders, cancels curfew

LIMA, Peru – If protesters picketed roads in the outback of Peru because of rising fuel and fertilizer prices, President Pedro Castillo might have responded with sympathy or dialogue.

Instead, after nearly a week of ignoring the storm, Castillo as well farmer and a former strike leader who lit a fire with gasoline, accusing protest leaders of “anger and pay.”

As the blockade escalated this week into violence, throwing stones and burning tires, the president responded on Tuesday with a draconian move that outraged and embarrassed almost the entire country: placing Lima, the capital of 10 million people, almost free from unrest, under strict closure.

The chaotic beginning of the Castilian presidency makes Peruvians wonder who is in charge here

The move has been widely criticized as unconstitutional, offensive, disproportionate and politically suicidal. This has hit the poor particularly hard, many of whom live hand in hand. It soon ended in a farce: an inexperienced president, meeting with enraged lawmakers, announced that he was suspending the measure, but then failed to sign the necessary decree, as protesters, this time waving red and white Peruvian flags, gathered in central Lima for the first time. times.

“The government has not only betrayed its promises of change, but is now repeating the method of ‘conflict resolution’ of the right.” wrote in a tweet The leader of the new party of Peru is Veronica Mendoza, a former ally of Castillo. “Ignore those who mobilize with legitimate dissatisfaction with the economic and political situation, repress, criminalize and restrict rights.”

At least five people were reported killed in clashes that continued on Wednesday; two more were reportedly partially blinded by rubber bullets fired by police. The center of unrest was the central region of Hunin, where the crowd stoned the house of former governor Vladimir Seron, teacher of Castillo and founder of his Marxist-Leninist Free Peruvian party.

Increasing authoritarian symbolism, the blockade came on the anniversary of the “self-coup” of disgraced former President Albert Fujimori in 1992, when he closed Congress and the courts, ostensibly to better counter the Maoist rebels “Shining Path.”

The chaos this week comes eight months after the presidency of a political neophyte that sparked expectations among poor Peruvians but whose administration has broken up into a steady stream of self-inflicted scandals, catastrophic political decisions, a growing power vacuum and public disgust.

“The whole world eats well, but we do not”

Two nephews of the president and his former secretary, President Bruno Pacheco, are fleeing prosecutors who want to question them about their influence at the center of the Castilian administration. Pacheka, whose office was adjacent to the president’s office, was found with $ 20,000 hidden in the bathroom of his office. He has since given three different explanations for the cash, at one point claiming it was his savings and at another claiming that the money had to be paid to his lawyer.

A distinctive feature of the Castilian presidency was his consistent appointment to the public office of very inappropriate candidates. Among them are Oscar Zea, the agriculture minister involved but not convicted of two murders – he denies wrongdoing in both cases – and Rosenda Serna, education minister, accused this week of plagiarizing even admissions to his doctoral dissertation.

The recently announced impeachment of the Minister of Health, Hernan Condori, as a doctor, proposed a product known as “group water” – essentially flavored water – as an alleged anti-aging agent, at $ 80 per 100 ml bottle. At his inauguration, he grossly lied, claiming that the product had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its Peruvian counterpart Digemid.

Meanwhile, government agencies have felt an outflow of skilled officials who have been ousted or resigned in anger at Castillo’s appointees, many of them by unskilled Free Peruvian apparatchiks, some involved in corruption and other criminal behavior.

According to a recent poll, only 24 percent of Peruvians approve of Castillo’s speech; 71 percent do not expect it to last its five-year term.

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However, Congress, which is dominated by the right-wing opposition and has spent most of the past eight months trying to undo reforms by former President Martin Viscara’s administration to make politics cleaner and more representative, is treated with even more contempt. only 17 percent approval.

So far, Castilla has survived two votes on impeachment. Last week, lawmakers voted 55 to 54 for the second proposal, much less than two-thirds of the overwhelming majority needed to reject it. Castillo was accused of making policy decisions with shadow advisers rather than the cabinet, and secretly meeting with lobbyists before their companies irregularly won multimillion-dollar government contracts.

Attempts to oust Castillo have been sparked by the same ultra-conservative politicians who refused to recognize his presidential victory last June. But now annoyed centrists and even some leftists are willing to accept Castile’s rejection, using the constitutional trigger of “moral incapacity,” an indefinite 19th-century term designed to cover weakness.

One of them is Ed Malaga-Trill, a neurologist and congressman from the small moderate party “Purple”. Last week, he voted against Castillo, he said, reluctantly, in response to what he saw as the president’s dismantling of the delicate achievements of Peruvian institutions since the restoration of democracy in 2000.

“You decide when you vote whether you want it or not,” Malaga-Trilli said. “And we have reached a critical point with constant incompetence, misconceptions and corruption. This blockade is just one last example, a measure that does not work well with the most vulnerable. “

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An increasing number of Peruvians want new elections. But this is unlikely to solve the problem, warns political scientist Pavel Tavar. Peruvian policy problems are structural, she says, including the often corrupt interests that control many existing parties and high barriers to registering new parties – including requiring them to have about 25,000 members before they can participate. in the election.

Congress, meanwhile, has now twice suspended the implementation of a new law requiring internal primaries, instead returning to a system of party bosses who personally select candidates.

“The problem is deeper than individuals,” says Tavara. “It’s about the system, and if we don’t change it before the new election, we’ll just get more of the same.”

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