The World Today for February 13, 2023


Revolt of the Incas


The Peruvian city of Juliaca recently felt like a warzone.

“Burning pyres of rubbish and bullet-pocked walls … troops holed up in the airport with AK-47s and riot shields, waiting for a truce that has no date to come … a mayor holding court behind the broken windows of a vandalized city hall,” wrote the Guardian, describing the scene after a recent clash between security forces and protesters.

Scores have died in the violence. Police no longer police the streets of this Andean city in southern Peru, focusing their efforts on controlling the Inca Manco Cápac International Airport named after the founder of the Inca civilization. Anti-government rebels patrol the city instead.

The fighting is part of a conflict that has flared up between anti-government rebels and the central government in the capital, Lima, under President Dina Boluarte, who replaced the now former President Pedro Castillo late last year for allegedly staging a coup. Boluarte, who won office with Castillo in 2021, started her career as a leftist but has since allied herself with moderates and conservatives, as the Financial Times explained.

Castillo was a leftist champion of Indigenous groups and the rural poor, but failed to realize his campaign pledges of redistributing wealth from the country’s natural sources and faced numerous corruption allegations. His defenders at Counterpunch argue that his supposed coup was his attempt to block right-wing elements in Peruvian politics who were using the organs of the state to undermine his democratically-elected administration.

In a sign of how instability has marked Peruvian politics, Boluarte is the country’s sixth president in six years, noted the Associated Press.

Boluarte recently declared a state of emergency covering cities and regions throughout the South American country, allowing the military to bolster police, suspending freedom of assembly, and imposing nighttime curfews, according to Voice of America.

But the rebels-cum-protesters have shown few signs of backing down. They have promised to blockade copper exports unless Boluarte resigns, new elections for Congress are held, and officials initiate a process to revise a pro-free market constitution adopted in 1993, reported Reuters, adding that polls show the public agrees with many of their demands.

Many protesters want to improve the social, political, and economic conditions of Indigenous communities. Carrying the square, multicolored Wiphala patchwork flag, that serves as the banner of those communities in the Andes, they harken back to age-old divides in Peru. “I am Inca blood,” said Cirilo Yupanqui at a recent demonstration in Lima. “I’m not a terrorist, as they say. I’m not a criminal. I have a formal job. Just look at how they treat us.”

Peruvian lawmakers, meanwhile, have rejected the idea of new elections, noted Al Jazeera. Castillo’s Free Peru political party lacked the votes to approve the measure.

The rebellion and the response are still in their early stages.

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