Dec 13, 2022 - World

Political crisis deepens as protests rock Peru

Supporters of Pedro Castillo hold a sign criticizing Congress in Arequipa, Peru, Dec. 12. Photo: Diego Ramos/AFP via Getty Images

Supporters of Pedro Castillo hold a sign criticizing Congress in Arequipa, Peru, Dec. 12. Photo: Diego Ramos/AFP via Getty Images

There's no sign Peru's political crisis will be easily resolved anytime soon.

The big picture: At least seven people have died during protests against Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in as president last week after Congress ousted her predecessor, Pedro Castillo.

  • Some protesters are calling for Boluarte to resign and for Peru to immediately hold new presidential elections. Many also want electoral reforms because they feel the political system is not fully representative.
  • In an attempt to appease protesters yesterday, Boluarte said she will negotiate with Congress to hold early elections in April 2024, two years before the scheduled vote.

Yes, but: Boluarte faces an uphill battle to stay in office, analysts have warned. That’s partly because the last six years have been marked by constant government turnover.

  • Both public discontent with lawmakers and the president, as well as soured relations between the executive and legislative branches, have played a part, political scientist Paula Távara Pineda tells Axios Latino.
  • Even if the country calls early elections for 2024, protests are likely to continue because demonstrators don't want to wait that long, says Távara Pineda. Without reforms, the longstanding frictions between the branches won't be solved either, she argues.

Between the lines: Since the early 90s, Peru's Congress can vote out or "vacate" presidents when they consider them to have "moral incapacity," a murkily defined term.

  • That gives lawmakers discretionary authority to call a "vacancy" vote, similar to impeachment, which they've held seven times since 2017. "Impeaching has become almost normalized recently as a result," says Távara Pineda.
  • Peruvian presidents have separate authority to dissolve Congress when two of their cabinets fail to survive a no-confidence vote. Three presidents — Castillo included — have tried using that power.

What they're saying: "Political parties nowadays are very distanced from the people, barely passing laws amid their vacancy votes, and not for the most pressing concerns," Távara Pineda says.

  • "Then the executive is so dedicated to its own survival against vacancies that it's left by the wayside programs and policies key for this post-pandemic period," she adds.

Catch up quick: Presidents in Peru are elected to five-year terms.

  • But over the last six years, the country has had seven presidents, including Boularte. Some have resigned under pressure, others have been ousted by Congress and several have faced criminal proceedings after leaving power.

State of play: Castillo, who faces criminal charges for rebellion, remains under police custody. The warrant runs out on Wednesday but could be extended.

  • Before his removal, Castillo was already facing a corruption indictment for allegedly leading a bribery-for-public-contracts scheme. That case will likely move forward now that he lost his political immunity, analysts say. He has denied wrongdoing.
  • Despite his removal, Castillo has received backing from Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico, whose president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said on Tuesday his country will still recognize Castillo as president instead of Boluarte.

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