By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
As the pictures of the former President of Peru sitting unrestrained in a jail in Lima were tweeted by the National Peruvian Police with the caption of them having to intervene to save the sanctity and freedom of the Peruvian constitutional processes; it became clear that the former teacher turned President – Pedro Castillo had overstayed his welcome in the Peruvian congress. A coup d’état is by no means a novelty for Peru and it is their previous experiences that have made the country more conscious about identifications of signs that usually surround an unconstitutional power grab; and this attempt did not escape the congress.
If one was to jog their memory a little to the era of the last presidential elections in Peru, one would remember that even at that time the average Peruvian had little to no faith in the politics and politicians of their country. There were no less than ten candidates attempting their shot at Presidency and the two that surfaced at the top for the final races were Pedro Castillo, a former farmer and teacher with connections with the extremist group called the rising suns and the Keiko Fujimori, the scion with the legacy of both the Fujimori Presidential tenure and the corruption.
Interestingly enough the last time Peru saw a coup was in 1992, when the former President Alberto Fujimori closed the congress and the courts and called it a ‘self-coup’. This self – coup took away the chances of any opposition gaining ground against him. With the shutting down of courts, the judiciary could not intervene either to restore proper political processes. Human Rights abuses and police brutalities became commonplace and the Peruvians haven’t forgotten the last coup. Ever since Pedro Castillo took office, he has met with difficulties and a congress that has limited confidence in him. The second largest copper producer of the world, Peru has also been facing an institutional crisis since before Pedro took his seat as the President and Castillo did very little to inspire any confidence at all in the people of the country. His seventeen-month long tenure as the President too was riddled with corruption charges and scandals. It was against these very things that he had vowed to fight against as a candidate. One of the reasons why Pedro Castillo was elected as the President is because his apolitical background and his humble roots made some voters believe that Castillo could be the change that Peruvian politics needed at the moment.
However, Castillo’s inability to deliver on his promises only made his reign more difficult. The constant political turmoil had a spill over effect into the economy of the country and it became clear that investments in the state had taken a hit. When this was coupled with the pandemic, it became a bigger problem. This coup attempt that was foiled has already added to the ongoing constitutional crisis and institutional insecurity. It is still unclear as to what the future sequence of events would be for Pedro Castillo, however, for Peru former Vice President Dina Boluarte has taken over as the leader of the mineral rich country. She is also well within her constitutional right to do so. She was also quick to mention that Castillo’s attempts at dissolving the congress and shutting down the courts had to be stopped since Peru cannot have an unconstitutional presidency.
In a dramatic turn of events, minutes before Castillo was about to make the declaration about the dissolving of congress, he was impeached. While the country begins to come to terms with their reality, it is also important to gauge what this might mean for Peru and also Latin America. While the country has its congressional sanctity intact, the economy is still not completely stable. Investors have very little faith in their investments being able to reap profits which in turn means difficult economic recovery. At the same time people have little faith in their politics and politicians. While Dina Boluarte has assumed her duties as the President, it is unclear if Peru would hold another election or she would serve as the interim president for the rest of the Presidential term.
Author is an independent political and strategic analyst with a PhD in Latin American Studies from the School for International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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