Notes on the political crisis in Peru and the role of churches

by Milushka Rojas | Red Uniendo Manos Peru

*This article was originally published by the Presbyterian News Service on February 8, 2023

Lima, Peru. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

After the resignation of former President Alberto Fujimori, who established a dictatorial-type regime during 1992-2000, Peru began installing a kind of democratic transition period. The Fujimori dictatorship, which operated in a political context complicated by armed terrorist groups and an economic crisis, left the country with a neo-liberal constitution that mainly sought to correct or prevent errors in the economic management of resources, and mechanisms that ensure balance between the powers of the state. During the period of his rule, the country also opted for the relaunch of extractive activities in the southern, northern, and Amazonian zones, which over time generated greater tax collection, development of local activity, but an increase in socio-environmental conflicts.

Twenty-two years after Fujimori’s departure (2000) and the constitution he implemented in 1993, socio-environmental and political conditions have not necessarily changed for the better. The areas of greatest development in mining and hydrocarbon exploitation are also the areas with the highest levels of poverty. Diversity and wealth have not been managed responsibly by authorities and political parties; at the same time, organized civil society is in a moment of deconstruction and revaluation of cultures and relationships of coexistence. Racial discrimination and ethnic self-determination, high levels of corruption and political parties that function as companies that are activated during electoral processes also persist in the country.

Today’s crisis

After the Covid pandemic, Peru experienced a strong critique of its health services, among other public services. The candidacy of former president Pedro Castillo, who appeared on the political scene as an outsider, aroused great expectations among the populations hardest hit by the pandemic. Castillo proposed a protest agenda that he summarized in the phrase “no more poor people in a rich country” (greater presence of the State, change of the Constitution, and fight against corruption). At the same time, his provincial origin, being a rural teacher and an almost new face in politics made it easier for many of his voters to feel emotionally connected to his candidacy.

Castillo was not a great candidate, but he was the new candidate of the people — the lesser evil compared to the option of voting for the daughter of former dictator Fujimori, Keiko Fujimori. Castillo won by a narrow margin, thanks to the vote of the rural south, the Amazon and the central Andes. His opponents took lack of experience and knowledge as the main criteria of disapproval and rejection to support the thesis that Castillo had won the elections by fraud. The dictator’s daughter did not accept his defeat until several months later. The Congress of the Republic, where Castillo did not enjoy a clear majority, declared itself an adversary to Castillo from before he was even sworn in to power. The leaders of Congress (far right) tried to influence public opinions by suggesting that the vote of the “farmers and voters of Castillo” were not valid. Added to the difficulty in accepting defeat was the discrimination against Castillo “Castiburro” and his voters who were mostly rural and indigenous. Castillo spent his time denouncing such discrimination while also covering up his own mistakes and limitations. The confrontation of the Congress of the Republic with Castillo and his lack of concern for legislating in favor of citizen demands promptly caused him to have approval ratings of less than 10%, and gave weight to Castillo’s threat to dissolve Congress.

Added to the argument of electoral fraud was a broad vigilant attitude on the part of the opposition and the media. Castillo was not good at choosing ministers or keeping them, and the people he trusted were officials and relatives who ended up involved in visible acts of corruption, for which they are being investigated along with Castillo. Yet, despite his low rating, in December 2022, more than 70% of the population agreed that Castillo should close Congress, and himself faced with a possible impeachment, 70% considered that the then vice president should resign and renew Congress by calling general elections.

On Dec. 7, before the imminent third attempt by Congress to impeach the president, Castillo decided on a coup, ordering the closure of Congress, the closure and reform of the Prosecutor’s Office and other State powers. The coup was declared on the State channel. It caused great commotion. His rapid action without respect for institutional procedures to close Congress led Congress led to impeach him within hours and subsequently have him arrested.

His impeachment and arrest incited Castillo voters who have since taken to the streets in protest. They have since become outraged at his vice president (now president) Dina Boluarte, who they claim to be a traitor because she assumed the presidency instead of resigning (as she previously said she would have done). The situation worsened with the harsh repressive strategy that Boluarte has consented to against the protesters.

Milshka Rojas is the coordinator of Red Uniendo Manos Peru. Photo courtesy of Milushka Rojas.

The crisis seems to have no end due to the determination not to dialogue and the absence of visible leaders with whom to dialogue. The deaths have led more than 50% of the country to identify with the social protest at the national level. The abuse of violent force used against demonstrators and the disrespect for the fundamental civic rights due to the state of emergency imposed by Boluarte over a large part of the national territory has further mobilized the most rural communities, who have taken their protest to Lima. These populations have been marching and protesting for more than 50 consecutive days calling for the cessation of violence.

The church communities that make up the human rights movement and the environmental movement are shocked by the mass of protestors and the human rights violations that have been occurring. From different spaces, assisted by the initial leaders of the protest, churches are providing humanitarian aid (management of accommodations, food, legal advice, health care and medicines, security devices), monitoring and dissemination of the events in communication networks (social networks, whatsapp, blogs, channels of citizen journalists, etc.).

The absence of intermediaries between the parties, either because they do not want to dialogue or because they do not consider the validity of any actor (among them the churches) is also an issue that will lead us to rethink our forms of accompaniment and dialogue with the communities that we encourage.


At present, the Red Uniendo Manos Peru has  been providing support for those arriving to Lima with humanitarian aid as well as disseminating information. We are unsuccessful so far in being able to facilitate dialogue. Our allies and partners are either involved or immobilized by the permanence of the protest. We hope that the discontent and the protest can culminate or take a long pause when the president resigns and all the authorities are renewed as proposed by the protestors.

Having said that, there is a great risk that after the quick general elections that the protest intends, the political panorama will not change, and the weariness will grow.

You can support the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s partner Red Uniendo Manos Peru by giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing.


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