State of Emergency Declared in Peru Following Deadly Protests

Deadly protests continue in Peru after the impeachment of former president Pedro Castillo. On December 7, Castillo attempted to dissolve the Congress and rule by decree. The former school teacher also announced a state of emergency as, according to him, he was trying to reestablish the rule of law and democracy. Castillo’s move was deemed an attempted coup and led to his impeachment and subsequent arrest and detention. The former president was accused of conspiracy and rebellion and will remain in custody for 18 months. Lawmakers had already attempted to impeach Castillo twice but failed to get enough votes previously. Only two hours after the impeachment Dina Boluarte, the former vice president, was sworn in Castillo’s place.

However, the citizens of Peru are discontent with their former president’s removal. There have been violent demonstrations, with many farmers and Indigenous people defending Castillo, who view Castillo as their legitimate representative. The demonstrators also demand the suspension of Congress, the resignation of Boluarte and the scheduling of fresh general elections. Euronews reported that at least 20 people have died during the protests, and at least 340 have been injured. In addition, the protestors have destroyed police stations, blocked traffic on Peru’s main roads, and left hundreds of foreign visitors stranded by barricading airport entrances.

Boluarte’s response to the violence was to move the elections from December 2026 to December 2023. Still, Congress rejected a constitutional amendment that would have made this possible. As the president’s efforts to calm the country failed, the government declared a national emergency for 30 days. The newly imposed state of emergency suspends the right to assemble and travel freely throughout the entire nation. The measure also gives the police the right to conduct home searches without permission or a court order. A nightly curfew could also be imposed.

Protesters have even described the situation as a national insurgency. “Peru has declared ourselves in a state of insurgency, a national insurgency because we do not owe obedience to a usurping government,” said a demonstrator in Lima. In response to the protesters, Boluarte said: “The only thing I can tell you brothers and sisters [is] to keep calm. We have already lived through this experience in the 1980s and 90s, and I believe we do not want to return to that painful history.” The statement, according to DW, referred to the years in which the Shining Path committed bombings and assassinations all over the state, setting off decades of warfare that resulted in the deaths and disappearances of nearly 70,000 individuals.

From the beginning, Pedro Castillo’s presidency has been difficult. In June 2021, he was elected with a narrow margin. He had no political experience and had to deal with a hostile Congress, which made it challenging for him to lead. Throughout his short term in office, his cabinet experienced frequent changes and had five different prime ministers. Castillo’s promise to share mineral resources and amend the country’s dictatorial Constitution won him sympathy from Indigenous and poor Peruvians. The president regularly claimed to speak for the poor but neglected them throughout his term. Additionally, Castillo’s politics created concerns and fueled worries that he would support local autocrats and pursue a radical agenda that would deter foreign investment. He also faced numerous allegations of corruption and remained unpopular throughout his presidency.

So far, there is no sign the protests will stop. Experts claim that a number of factors, in addition to the most recent political crisis, are causing the unrest, including a significant cultural divide between Lima’s upper classes and the citizens of Peru’s Andean and Amazonian hinterlands, who feel betrayed by the Congress. Moreover, these areas have endured years of simmering resentment and dissatisfaction over the weak state institutions’ inability to deliver essential services like education, healthcare and security outside Lima. With each demonstrator murdered in fights with the police forces, resentment among Castillo’s followers is sure to grow. People who cannot travel freely and whose jobs are interrupted by the protests are also growing impatient.

It is yet uncertain if president Boluarte has the political skills necessary to form a legislative coalition within the conservative-majority Congress and end the political unrest. But so far, attempts to quell the demonstrations have not seemed to tackle the protesters’ main grievances, which accuse Peru’s elite of unfairly overthrowing their elected government and perceive the political system as corrupt and unorganized.