On December 7th, 2022, 63rd President of Peru Pedro Castillo attempted to dissolve the Peruvian Congress and install an emergency government.
What was a protest against his third impeachment trial succeeding accusations of corruption, Castillo’s attempt was perceived as an illegal ploy to remain in power, which instigated his removal from government. Castillo was then replaced by his vice-president Dina Boluarte who condoned his removal by promising “to take action against corruption” and to “defend democracy until 2026.”
Following his removal, Castillo was arrested on charges of rebellion and conspiracy, an action which was met with nationwide protest. In the first six days of Boluarte’s presidency, Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsman Eliana Revollar recorded that seven people were killed in anti-government demonstrations, six of whom were under the age of eighteen.
Through running on a Marxist and nationalist platform, Castillo garnered support from working class and Indigenous communities, who felt alienated by the measures taken by preceding governments. Despite Boluarte’s disassociation with Castillo, her popularity decreased when law enforcement began inflicting violence on Castillo’s supporters. With the intensification of violent protest and Castillo coining Boluarte a ‘usurper’, pro-Castillo supporters began demanding Boluarte’s resignation.
Following a month of societal upheaval, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched an investigation on January 10th, 2023, surrounding the deaths and injuries which have occurred during the demonstrations. According to spokesperson Marta Hurtado, the 9th of January was “one of the deadliest days since unrest erupted”, with 17 killed in the city of Juliaca and 143 injured, 68 of whom were civilians and 75 police officers. One police officer, Jose Luis Soncco, was killed when his vehicle was torched amidst the turbulence. A 31-year-old medical student suffered a fatal gunshot wound nearby whilst providing aid to an injured protester.
Although Peru’s Prime Minister Alberto Otárola ensures that the Peruvian government is defending the “peace and tranquillity of 33 million Peruvians”, Lisbeth Candia informed The Guardian on January 11th that her brother, Remo, was shot dead when “exercising his right to protest” in the city of Cusco alongside farmers from his village.
As of January 16th, Revollar has reported a total of fifty deaths since the protests began in early December. The investigation under OHCHR is currently ongoing, with representative Christian Salazar set to officially visit Peru on the 18th of January, following an invitation from the Peruvian government.