Marco Aquino and Alexander Villegas
LIMA (Reuters – Leopoldo Uaman, 60 years old, is a farmer from Chalhuanca. He traveled three days to reach Lima to march in support for Pedro Castillo’s ousted leader. This has sparked deadly protests throughout the country.
Huaman, one of Peru’s forgotten people, is a marginalized rural group Castillo tried hard to represent, but failed to do so. His arrest has fueled his anger and threatened to destroy a fragile new government as well as a hated Congress.
The South American nation has been experiencing voter anger for years. This is despite years of turbulent politics that saw six presidents in five year. Many of the former leaders were arrested or investigated for corruption.
In the past two weeks, the situation has escalated. In the wake Castillo’s December 7 ouster, when he attempted to close Congress illegally to avoid losing an impeachment vote, protesters blocked roads, set fire to buildings, and took over airports. At least 18 people were killed.
Many of the protesters, Castillo supporters as well as those simply angered by Castillo, felt ignored by politicians. Castillo, a former teacher who was also the son of peasant farmer, was at least one of their own, they claimed, despite all his flaws.
Huaman said, “Nobody represents my now,” and blamed Congress and Dina Boluarte (Castillo’s former vice-president) for the protest deaths. Many others like him hold banners calling Castillo a “murderer”, and demanding her resignation.
Rights groups have accused the police and armed forces of using deadly firearms, and dropping smoke bombs from their helicopters. According to the military, protesters mainly from Peru’s Andean South used homemade explosives and weapons.
Boluarte is Peru’s first female President and can speak the Quechua Andean language. Despite the pressures, she has stated that she will not resign.
Huaman said, “She only represents those who are dead.” “We elected a humble rural teacher, like us, in the hope of a revolution that would bring down the rich.”
‘NEST OF RATS’
Castillo was unexpectedly elected to the presidency in the wake of rural voters who were fed up with the status-quo and a corrupt Lima political elite.
Castillo wrote from prison that he was selected by the forgotten men of deep Peru, the dispossessed who had been neglected for more than 200 years. Castillo is currently in pretrial detention for 18 months while he is being investigated for alleged rebellion and conspiracy crimes, which he denies.
He thanked his supporters and accused the police and military of “massacres.”
He wrote: “In this hard context, the coupmongers, exploiting, and starving us… today they want to silence our people.”
He was a political rookie and had gained support by promising to reform the constitution, redistribute copper riches, and empower marginalized groups of indigenous peoples. He failed to keep many of his promises, and his star began to fade before his death. His associates were subject to a series of corruption probes. He swept through five Cabinets and more than 80 ministers in just 17-months.
His arrest has made up for some of the disappointment. His arrest has caused some disappointment. Hundreds of Peruvians from Amazonian, mountain, and rural regions have come to Lima to support him, including the jail where they are being held.
Merina Chavez, a supporter of the Peruvian people, told Reuters that the Peruvian people would rise up and defend the popular vote. She was speaking outside the prison to vent her fury at legislators. “Congress refused to let him do what he was supposed to.”
Castillo was a socialist Peru Libre candidate who later shifted to the right. He faced a hostile legislature with a fragmented legislature where the most powerful bloc was held by the conservative party he narrowly defeated.
Three times he was impeached, the last time by a large majority. His attempt to disband Congress caused resignations from ministers and accusations that he had been a coup plotter by ex-allies.
But most Peruvians blame Congress for their country’s political problems. According to Datum pollster, the approval rating for the parliament is only 11%. Castillo’s approval rating was only 11% before his departure.
Recent polls showed that 44% of Peruvians supported Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress, even though it was done outside the bounds of the Constitution.
Katherine Asto, who was outside Lima prison, had come to support Castillo wearing white hats with a slogan that made her feelings known: “Shut down Congress. It’s a nest full of rats.”
(Reporting from Marco Aquino, Alexander Villegas, and Liamar Ramos; Writing and Editing by Adam Jourdan. Editing by Daniel Wallis