Peru, a popular destituent movement

People protest against the government of Dina Boluarte (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP)

By: Luís Hernández Navarro

Southern Peru burns. Angered by the usurpation of the popular will and government repression, demonstrators set fire to banks in Yunguyo, Puno department. They did the same at the police station in Triunfo, Arequipa. In the Antapaccay company camp in Cusco, the population looted company property and set fire to facilities. The fire has also burned television channels and residences of politicians in other cities.

The list of documented protests is endless. Most are peaceful, which does not prevent police violence from targeting them. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, 78 points were blocked on January 22 in 23 provinces. Among other actions, airports, road pickets, bridges and railway networks have been taken; attempts to occupy the barracks in the district of Llave. According to the authorities, there have been 14 attacks on judicial headquarters and seven fires of their buildings, as well as 34 protests against police stations, four of which were turned into bonfires. And, of course, the massive occupation of Lima.

Popular anger boils over in multiple regions. Congresswomen, such as the Fujimorista Tania Tajamarca, are expelled with stones when they return to their demarcations. But citizen anger does not distinguish political parties. “Are you happy with the results, Ms. Susel? How does it feel to go to sleep every day with 52 dead?” a woman complained to parliamentarian Susel Paredes, an LGBT activist.

The pyres have not been lit by small radical groups. They are, along with the blockades of communication routes, clashes with the police and the seizure of public offices, the work of the popular uprising in progress. It is a modern Fuente Ovejuna [1] that grows beyond parties, fed by peasant patrols, popular groups that have territory as an identity, small merchants, teachers, indigenous communities, transport workers, unions and student groups. It’s the return of the Four Regions Together (the Tawantinsuyo, in Quechua).

The heterogeneous and diverse popular movement that moves through the country like the magma of a volcano does not claim particular demands. The protagonists have put aside their specific approaches. They are, from the outset, a destituent power [2] of the old political regime, which demands the resignation of the de facto usurper government, its president Dina Boluarte and Congress. Without formulating it that way, it maintains a kind of “let them all go away!” It demands new elections and an endorsement of a Constituent Assembly, in addition to the release of Pedro Castillo. The most recent poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies indicates that 69 percent of respondents agree to convene a Constituent Assembly to change the Constitution.

In a structurally racist and classist country, like Peru, with the Lima oligarchy dominating the provinces, a huge army of precarious workers, the systematic subrogation of [public] works and services and the endemic political persecution of social fighters, the ongoing popular revolt is also fed by old grievances, which today emerge on the surface. Fueled by anger and social resentment, it is a movement for dignity, formulated in a political key.

The Peruvian State, Héctor Béjar has written, one of the great ethical-political intellectual references of that nation, is a “ship full of holes, which sails without a compass and without a captain. Captains are fleeting. They arrive thinking about what they are going to take. It’s a State in a situation of disability, in which it can do nothing, because everything has to be contracted with private companies.”  A State, which is a power in copper production and which, however, has not been able to prevent 41 large mining contracts from being paralyzed by resistance from the communities, nor does it have the strength to begin to renegotiate the pacts signed by Fujimori that end this 2023.

Protest march in Lima, Peru.

The movement has a start date (December 7), but its end is not in sight. Its permanence is surprising, despite the savage repression of the de facto civic-military government, which has declared the suspension of constitutional guarantees and the murder of more than 60 people; it advances in waves; its intelligence to retreat during the Christmas holidays and regrow with more vigor and ability to summon them at the end of these; its power to reissue a new “March of the Four Suyos,”  similar to the one that in 2000 marked the beginning of the end of the Fujimori dictatorship, while controlling the south of the country. The solidarity networks feed, host, supply water, transport, heal and protect it.

With its own specificities, the Peruvian destituent uprising joins the cycle of popular mobilizations from below that have shaken Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Bolivia in recent years. As these South American experiences show, its outcome is uncertain. History does not advance in a direct line.

Big transnational mining capital demands stability and guarantees for their investments and will use all their resources and influence to maintain them. Although the decision to repress popular insubordination has broad consensus on the Peruvian right, the usurper government of Boluarte is unviable in the medium term. However, the magnitude of the violence against the rebels may drown in blood and fire, in the short term, this push for removal from Peru below. The Peruvian people have become subjects of their own destiny. All solidarity to their epic!


[1] Fuente Ovejuna – A small town rises up against a cruel overlord, putting him to death in an act of collective justice.

[2] Destituent Power destituent power outlines a force that, in its very constitution, deactivates the governmental machine.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, January 24, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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