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A Socialist Perspective on the Crisis in Peru

The longstanding political crisis in Peru is deepened by the Bonapartist moves of Castillo and the parliamentary coup against him. Our comrades in Peru explain the crisis and a way forward for the Peruvian working class and oppressed.

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Peru's new President Dina Boluarte attends a ceremony marking Army Day in Lima, Peru, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Peru's Congress voted to remove President Pedro Castillo from office Wednesday and replace him with the vice president, Boluarte, shortly after Castillo tried to dissolve the legislature ahead of a scheduled vote to remove him. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

The following is a statement by Peruvian socialists organized in the Corriente Socialista de las y los Trabajadores (CST, Socialist Workers Current), part of the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International, on the fast-developing political situation in Peru and the importance of an independent socialist perspective to condemn the attacks of the Right and provide an alternative for the exploited and oppressed in the face of a decaying regime tainted with the legacy of dictatorship.

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The longstanding political crisis in Peru is deepened by the Bonapartist moves of Castillo and the parliamentary coup against him. Our comrades in Peru explain the crisis and a way forward for the Peruvian working class and oppressed.

On Tuesday afternoon, December 7, the Congress of the Republic of Peru removed Pedro Castillo from his role as president after he attempted to dissolve it. The majority right-wing Congress was holding a vote on impeachment proceedings against him, its third impeachment attempt since Castillo assumed the presidency in July 2021. The day began with a Bonapartist move by Castillo and ended with Castillo being removed by a parliamentary coup. The parliamentary coup was justified legally under the current and highly questionable constitution which was established during the reign of Peru’s former dictator Alberto Fujimori, and which has been upheld by the police through threats and violent repression. The suspension of all presidential powers will only serve to sharpen the country’s political crisis.

It’s important to note that before Castillo’s maneuvers, the right-wing sectors of Congress were already preparing, in collusion with Peru’s national law enforcement agency and judicial branch, to carry out a third impeachment attempt against Castillo. Congress took advantage of a series of news reports released recently that show several of Castillo’s supposed collaborators accusing the now ex-president of being the head of a criminal organization that was designed to illegally misappropriate federal resources. Castillo, unable to mobilize his popular base against this attack, sought the support of the Organization of American States (OAS), an organization that serves North American imperial interests and played a role in the attempted coup in Bolivia against Evo Morales. The OAS called for “dialogue among all Peruvian political actors,” a lack of action which ultimately tipped the scales in favor of those seeking impeachment, who continued to make use of the new and increasingly compromising testimonies of Castillo’s “collaborators.” This process only served to weaken Castillo’s case, to such an extent that he lost not only his congressional support, but his popular support as well.

Pedro Castillo’s downfall at the hands of Congress demonstrates yet again the ineffectiveness of a political strategy that seeks to make change for the people by appealing to the bourgeois state which, as Marx said, is nothing else but “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” It also shows the failure of a strategy of class collaboration and seeking national unity with capitalists, a strategy which Castillo, acting in accordance with the reformist/neo-reformist left in Peru, tried to implement from the very first day of his presidency. This is why he he left the political foundations of former dictator Fujimori’s reign intact, and why he allowed the economy to continue on a neoliberal autopilot mode that produced, to name a few examples: keeping Julio Velarde, a staunch ally of the IMF, to continue on as Chairman of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru, as well as the extension of a series of concessions and privileges to the country’s wealthiest capitalists, such as the transnational mining companies Southern Cooper in Moquegua and MMG Las Bambas in Cusco and Apurímac.

When Castillo attempted to dissolve Congress and establish an emergency government which would have the power to change the Constitution, he also stated that he would reconfigure the justice system and declared a state of emergency and curfew. These actions imposed by Castillo were outside the margins of the Constitution and, as a result, the same Congress that resisted its own suspension proceeded — now having a majority of 101 votes in favor, 6 against, and 10 abstaining — to impeach Castillo for “moral incapacity” and an “attempted coup.” Dina Boluarte, elected as Castillo’s Vice President, assumed the presidency of Peru.

We’re writing at a moment in which Peru’s political crisis has reached new heights and its conclusion is unknown. Castillo has been arrested and moved to the custody of the Dirección de Operaciones Especiales, which is also where former dictator Alberto Fujimori is incarcerated to this day. Dina Boluarte, ex-member of Free Peru, has been inaugurated as the new President of the Republic of Peru. Hours before, the Armed Forces and National Police released a joint statement condemning the rupture of constitutional order by Castillo.

Ever since Castillo took over the presidency after a second vote (the first vote having too small a margin to declare a winner), he was faced with hostility from the Congress and the justice system. Having had to navigate three impeachment attempts in less than 16 months as well as a highly suspect judiciary process in which he was accused of corruption and treason, Castillo made a desperate attempt to maintain order and stability in the government by suspending the Congress. These measures were authoritarian; however, they lacked the successful coordination of the branches of power within the government which Fujimori had, for example, in his 1992 internal coup which was backed by all armed branches of Peru’s government.

In 2019, former President Martín Vizcarra exercised the same constitutional power, but with the crucial support of the urban middle class as well as the reformist left led by Veronika Mendoza.  Congress had also been deeply disgraced by the stain of Fujimorism. This situation allowed Vizcarra to suspend Congress and count on the Supreme Court to rule that the suspension was in fact constitutional. Castillo attempted the same maneuver, but without any type of institutional support, having lost even the support of key popular sectors who won him the presidency but then watched him continuously turn to the right, abandoning all of his campaign promises. He was hoping to avoid the very same result that came to pass and that has left him not only stripped of his power, but also behind bars.

As such, we can affirm that Castillo attempted a highly Bonapartist move, without the support of local governments, the congresspeople from his own political party, or the Armed forces and National Police (who considered him a “terrorist”), and most importantly, without popular support, which he slowly lost over the course of his 16 months in power.

The political assault from Congress was spurred on by certain political camps with close ties to former dictator Fujimori; the Aprista (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) Party, a once-socialist party which tends toward centrism and fell from grace over the years due to a number of political scandals; and a number of other congresspeople acting on more specific business interests. It began when Congress rejected Castillo’s initial cabinet picks in the summer of 2021, accusing his Minister of Labor and his cabinet head of having ties to Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”), a terrorist group that was active in Peru from 1980 to 2000. Accusations of influence peddling and treason continued to pour in against Castillo, solely based on supposed “protected testimony,” for having suggested a plebiscite to move the country’s border in order to permit Bolivia access to the Pacific Ocean.

Castillo’s government, faced with these attacks, continued to accommodate the pro-Fujimori and right-wing sectors of the Congress more and more. He abandoned his proposal to change the constitution, a proposal which he had not even succeeded in bringing before Congress for discussion. He failed to confront any of the anti-worker and elitist arrangements that had been established during Fujimori’s coup and been maintained by the neoliberal trajectory of the country’s leadership ever since. His Covid-19 public health policies did not substantially differ from his predecessors’, and were based on offloading the economic and social costs of the pandemic onto the backs of the working class. This sharp turn to the right throughout his short tenure explains the lack of a strong popular defense of Castillo against a Congress that sought to take advantage of his low popular approval.

These recent events have demonstrated once again the way in which Latin American attempts at “progressivism” via petitioning the state apparatus for comprehensive structural reforms are destined to failure if they do not question the bourgeois and imperialist foundations of that same state. Castillo’s rural, Indigenous, and populist roots are not a guarantee that his administration will advance decolonization and democratization.In fact, his administration guaranteed the survival of the reactionary and antidemocratic mechanisms inherent to the current Peruvian political structure.

A Seemingly Bottomless Political Crisis in the Wake of Fujimori’s Regime

What we are witnessing is a new chapter in one of the deepest and longest political crises in all of Latin America. A political regime that arose in order to “fight terrorism”  carried out brutal crimes and attacks against workers’, peasants’, and human rights under that same guise. In sum, the regime imposed by Fujimori in 1993 was designed to carry out one of the most significant transformations in Peruvian capitalism, advancing the privatization of all national industries and placing Peru’s natural resources in the insatiable hands of foreign capital. 

Neoliberalism entered Peru by way of Fujimori’s constitution, which has stayed in effect until today. The profound and lengthy political crisis that has occurred under this constitution has delegitimized the entire Peruvian government not only in the eyes of the majority of the country but also for the upper-class minority who helped to establish Fujimori’s regime in the first place. Fujimori’s constitution has thus become a dangerous source of political and economic instability.

Given its depth, we would characterize Peru’s political crisis as what Gramsci terms an organic crisis, because it shows both the exhaustion of the political institutions of Fujimori’s regime and the collapse of the neoliberal model he imposed. This crisis has found concrete expression in the fall of the administrations of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Martín Vizcarra at the hands of Congress, and in the fact that all of the presidents and many of the high-level officials from the past 30 years are currently imprisoned on charges of corruption, one of whom (Alan García) even committed suicide when his private dealings with major business interests came to light. It is this deep-seated relationship between politicians, public institutions, and business interests that has caused the delegitimization of the Peruvian government as well as the deepening and prolonging of the organic crisis.

We Are Fighting for a Free, Sovereign Constitutional Convention, and a Long-Overdue End to Fujimori’s Regime

As we are faced with Castillo’s fall from power and the equally Bonapartist declarations from congressmembers that they intend to postpone the next election cycle until 2026, it is becoming clear in the eyes of millions that it is time to finally bury this decaying regime. Veronika Mendoza, head of Castillo’s own political party New Peru, maintained a prudent silence during the early hours of this crisis. Having supported Castillo’s administration since its very beginnings, Mendoza called for a constitutional assembly and new elections within the confines of the current political system. But by leaving in place the foundations of the current system, these elections will only provide life support to the battered and failing regime. This approach seeks institutional change without questioning the foundation of the “Fujimorist democracy,” and is therefore nothing more than a concession to a political lineage within Congress that needs to be abolished for the good of the country.

It has become urgent for the working class, students, rural communities, and popular sectors of society to begin discussing a political strategy to dispose of the corrupt political lineage and regime of Fujimori’s legacy. As time goes on, the need for a true constitutional convention grows larger, because only an overhaul of Fujimori’s constitution will be able to establish a democratic path forward that addresses the needs and demands of the working class in both urban and rural areas. A constitutional convention that is not bound by the constraints of the current system, as Mendoza would prefer, but that is free, sovereign, and controlled by the people, can begin to build upon the independent mobilizations of the working class.

As the Socialist Workers Current (CST), we consider the fight for a free and independent constitutional convention to be the most democratic path forward out of the current bourgeois democracy. It will allow the popular will to be expressed, taking the entire nation as a single electoral district. The members of this convention would be paid the salary of a schoolteacher and could be revoked according to the will of the constituents, thus doing away with the current privileges Congress members enjoy. This would prevent the constitutional convention from devolving into its own social caste that becomes detached from the reality of the majority of Peruvians, which we see with Congress today. Furthermore, a constitutional convention with the ability to intervene with and address all of the major issues on the national level in Peru, without any restrictions whatsoever and without the pro-Fujimori regime having any power to veto the resolutions it produces, will allow for the working-class and rural poor majorities in Peru to confirm that only a working-class and populist government is able to make inroads toward their radical demands in the areas of work, environment, public health, education, and beyond.

Originally published in Spanish on December 8 in La Izquierda Diario

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