Peru’s Defence Minister has declared a 30-day state of emergency, suspending personal freedoms and promising a “forceful and authoritative response” to violent protests which have lasted more than a week.
The protests relate to the removal of Pedro Castillo as President. Castillo claims he has been treated unjustly and has vowed to fight to regain his position.
Castillo was elected President in 2021. He has faced multiple corruption allegations, which he says are “slander”.
Last week, he tried to shut down Peru’s Congress (controlled by his opponents) to stop them from ‘impeaching’ (removing) him. Congress impeached him anyway and replaced him with Dina Boluarte, his former Vice President and Peru’s first female President.
Castillo has now been arrested and Peru’s government prosecutors say they will seek to imprison him for 18 months ahead of a trial.
Castillo has remained defiant. He has called his successor Boluarte a “usurper” and promised to fight for his position. He claims he has been “humiliated” and “kidnapped” and describes the campaign against him as “snot and drool” from his opponents. “The people should not fall for their dirty game,” he said in a message from prison.
Supporters of Castillo have clashed with police in protests that have lasted for several days. At least seven protesters have been killed, including a 15-year-old boy. Protesters stormed an airport in the city of Arequipa and have also stormed a gas plant and disrupted public transport.
Defence Minister Alberto Otárola has declared a nationwide state of emergency and said the Peruvian army would defend key buildings.
Amnesty International has called for an end to the use of “excessive force” against protesters.
Boluarte urges calm
President Dina Boluarte has called for calm. Earlier in the week, she had suggested a state of emergency would not be necessary and said she had asked police not to use “any lethal weapon” against protesters.
She has offered to hold elections in December next year, having previously planned to serve until 2026.
Polling suggests strong support for new elections. According to one poll conducted before the crisis, 61% of voters disapprove of Castillo but 86% disapprove of Congress.
The response from world leaders has been divided. The U.S, UK and European Union have declared their support for Boluarte, and a U.S. government spokesperson commended authorities for “safeguarding democratic stability”.
However, the leaders of Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia (all left-wing like Castillo) released a joint statement recognising Castillo as President and calling him a “victim of undemocratic harassment”.