First published at Revista Movimento. Edited for clarity by LINKS.
At this very moment there is a very intense struggle going on in Peru. On the one hand, a popular uprising, whose high point was the January 19 general strike; on the other hand, an increasingly isolated coup government that is dependent on repression to sustain its program and initiatives. This ongoing battle is decisive for the future of Peru and the continent.
We at Revista Movimento are covering this struggle on a daily basis, talking to the protagonists of the process, mobilizing international solidarity and following “up close” the heroic struggle of the Peruvian people. I was in Lima for a few weeks, as a correspondent for Movimento, bringing with me the solidarity of the Socialist Left Movement (MES) and the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) to the fighters who are rising up.
Here, in a summarized way, we outline the dynamics of the latest events and the need for the Brazilian left and the Lula government to take a position on the institutional crisis created by the coup plotters of the Dina Boluarte government.
The march of the 4 Suyos, 20 years later
As we know, former president Pedro Castillo was ousted by a parliamentary coup on December 7, after a clumsy attempt to shut down the rightist-controlled National Congress. As a result of this palace action, his vice president, Dina Boluarte, was sworn in as president. Castillo was arrested and imprisoned.
To consolidate herself in power, Boluarte chose right-wing figures for her ministry and as advisors – notably José Williams and Alberto Otarola. Since the first days of the coup government, the south of Peru has seen various protests and demonstrations, to which Boluarte responded with more repression. The year ended with the killing of several activists, and hopes on the part of the government that a truce over the Christmas holidays would stabilize the situation.
However, the intervention by peasants and workers of southern Peru (the vast majority of whom are of indigenous Aymará and Quechua origin) led to a real popular uprising in the province of Puno in the first days of January. Within this context, the government carried out the Juliaca massacre, leaving 18 dead – one of the most tragic chapters in Peruvian history.
Indignation grew, took hold throughout the south and spread throughout the country. On January 19, a new “March of the 4 Suyos” was called. This name was a reference to the demonstration that took place in July 2000, and which was the trigger for the fall of Alberto Fujimori’s dictatorship. The “four suyos” were the four main political centers in the different regions of the country during the Incaic period.
More than 20 years later, the Peruvian people have set in motion a mass struggle against a government that wants to assert itself through dictatorial means.
The general strike was a great success. The media referred to the March of the 4 Suyos as “The Taking of Lima” due to the hundreds of delegations that arrived from all over. The streets of the Peruvian capital were empty, almost like a Sunday or holiday. In addition to the demonstrators from the countryside, delegations from remote neighborhoods and districts up in the hills, marched to the center of Lima to repudiate the government and demand Dina’s resignation, as well as the closure of Congress, new elections and a Constituent Assembly.
The strike on January 19 definitively nationalized the Peruvian popular rebellion. Radicalized protests were held in the northern provinces, with almost 100 roadblocks, and obtained broad popular support.
Government insists on repression
The march on January 19 ended in major battles in the streets of downtown Lima. There was a fire in a historic building, which was used by the media and the government to disperse and criminalize the demonstrations.
In the following days, Boluarte went on TV to defend herself, affirming that she would remain in office and that she would continue to maintain “order”. The San Marcos University was invaded by the forces of repression on January 20 using tanks and gas canisters, ending with the arrest of 200 activists. We have had almost 60 people killed in the process, 600 arrested, as well as the arrest of leaders of the Front in defense of Arequipa, who have been accused of terrorism.
Given a constant loss of support, the government has sought to maintain itself in power through repression. It has combined ostensive police action with a narrative that seeks to persecute and criminalize activists. The right-wing discourse has two pillars: the traditional terruqueo, which means to impute to political opponents a relationship with terrorist groups, evoking the memory of the actions of groups that were active in the 80s and 90s; and attacks on Evo Morales, claiming that the leader of the Bolivian MAS is behind the protests in the south with the objective of dividing the country in two. The absurdity of this narrative is aimed at preventing the rebellion from advancing.
The current situation is one of an increasingly politically weak government, supported by the repressive forces and the most reactionary sectors of the hated congress. Polls show that 70% want a new constitution; 88% reject the government and 75% do not trust the current composition of Congress.
The government is isolating itself even among the middle classes in big cities like Lima.
The left must support the democratic struggle in Peru
We have reached a decisive moment in the national crisis marked by the Peruvian rebellion.
In the streets and roads of Peru, the future of the continental struggle is being played out. Today, the extreme right is entrenching itself in Bolivia against the MAS government, in Brazil with the Bolsonarists, and in Peru, sustaining the Boluarte government in power and opening the way for the return of the Fujimori clan.
In the midst of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) meeting, South American governments should commit to supporting the Peruvian rebellion. Gustavo Petro’s Colombian government has shown the way, condemning the invasion of the San Marcos University. The silence from sectors of the left only helps in sustaining Boluarte’s repressive turn. Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, in an interview for the newspaper Folha de São Paulo on January 23, cited his concerns about “instability” in Peru, without naming names or pointing out the government’s clear responsibilities. Lula, for his part, and Brazilian diplomacy have not spoken about the massacres and violations of fundamental rights that have taken place in recent weeks. It is necessary to change this course and take sides in this battle.
The PSOL, which approved a note of support to the Peruvian people at a meeting of its National Directory in December, is supporting the ongoing rebellion. We have participated in actions outside embassies, with PSOL deputy Fernanda Melchionna, along with other MPs, denouncing the Peruvian government for the violence and notifying the responsible bodies in Brazil of the transaction and sale of weapons to the Peruvian government for its repressive forces.
The heroic struggle of the Peruvian people deserves our support.
Israel Dutra is PSOL general secretary, sociologist and member of the National Leadership of the Socialist Left Movement (MES).