Rule By Chaos
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Foreign tourists were recently stranded at Machu Picchu, the 15th-century Incan citadel and UNESCO World Heritage Site, CNN wrote, amid a major political crisis in Peru. Officials declared a state of emergency, reported the Associated Press, shutting public transportation amid violent protests over the fate of ousted President Pedro Castillo. Anti-government protesters, meanwhile, closed down the airport, NBC News added.
The crisis exploded earlier this month after Castillo announced his intention to dissolve Congress and unilaterally take over control of the government, a move even some supporters called a “coup.” Soon after they heard the news, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to impeach Castillo on charges of conspiring to spark a rebellion, as USA Today reported. President Dina Boluarte, the former vice president and now the South American country’s first female president, then replaced Castillo.
She is the sixth president in five years. And her government is already teetering toward collapse.
A former schoolteacher and union organizer who had never held office and campaigned last year as a leftist who would shake up the country’s economic system, Castillo governed as a moderate as he battled his political foes.
Prosecutors have accused him of running a corruption ring that benefits from public spending, Al Jazeera noted. Castillo has countered that those allegations are politically motivated. He sought to suspend congress, he said, because his rivals were seeking to block his agenda, which was popular among the majority of Peruvians who put him in office.
Peruvian police reportedly arrested Castillo on his way to request asylum at the Mexican embassy in the capital of Lima. As Axios explained, the Mexican government is considering his request as he awaits trial. Castillo’s lawyers wrote a letter to Mexican officials arguing that Castillo was ousted and detained for “mere announcements of will or intention that do not constitute any criminal offense.”
Meanwhile, Castillo’s supporters are furious, according to the New York Times. Protests erupted, with clashes resulting in the deaths of at least 20 people and hundreds of injured civilians and police officers. Many poor and working-class Peruvians feel as if powerful elite forces had pushed a member of their community out of office just as they had achieved an opportunity to change Peru’s crushing inequality.
Hanging over these contretemps is Peruvian history. In the 1980s and 1990s, the communist Shining Path rebellion blew up cars and assassinated leaders. The counter-insurgency response was harsh. More than 70,000 people died in the civil war.
Celebrated in the early 2000s for ending a cycle of dictatorship by ousting rightwing strongman Alberto Fujimori, Peru has more recently lurched from crisis to crisis, the Christian Science Monitor noted. For example, there have been seven impeachment attempts since 2016 along with a flood of corruption scandals centering on the political class. Three former presidents have been arrested, and a fourth killed himself to avoid arrest.
As a result, entrenched corruption has deepened distrust in institutions, making way for virulent conspiracy theories capitalizing upon and fueling growing tribalism and leading to a state of constant turmoil, say analysts.
Meanwhile, the domestic dispute also threatens to ensnarl regional powers. Argentina, Colombia and Mexico supported Castillo’s rise to power, Bloomberg noted. Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay voiced their support for Boluarte.
Now it’s a toss-up as to whether the courts, legislators or the mobs decide who wins.