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What are the reasons for the protests in Peru?

Image Credit
Reuters (Angela Ponce)

Peru has seen the worst outbreak of violence and turmoil in over 20 years, with protests since the beginning of December 2022. The violence in the Andean country between demonstrators and law enforcement has led to the deaths of already 48 people.

How the violence started in Peru

Everything began after the Peruvian Congress removed the acting President Pedro Castillo from power on the 7th of December 2022. President Castillo was arrested and held in custody, facing rebellion charges after he supposedly tried to illegally dissolve the legislature and avoid a planned impeachment vote.

His dismissal immediately caused anger in rural regions in Peru's south, which had strongly supported the leftist Castillo to the presidency in 2021. President Castillo was entangled in several corruption investigations and went through five elected Cabinets in less than a year and a half  of his presidency. His approval in the country's elite steadily declined, finally leading to his dismissal. Consequently, Dina Boluarte (vice president) took over as Peru's president.

The unrest in Peru is also increased by enduring criticisms about high poverty levels and discrimination felt by many in Peru's Andean and Amazonian rural regions. Southern Peru is rich in copper, but many say that those mining riches pass local communities and only a small elite profit of the economic benefits. The south of Peru also has suffered the worst of a two-decade bloody armed conflict between Shining Path guerrillas and the government, where over 69,000 people were killed or went missing.

There is also a mistrust in Peru’s politicians after years of mismanagement and backbiting. The Peruvian Congress is seen as corrupt and self-serving by most of the Peruvian population.

Since December 2022, protesters have blocked roads, taken over airports and set some buildings on fire, demanding President Boluarte's resignation, the “closure” of the Peruvian Congress, a new constitution, and finally the release of former President Castillo's.

What is going to happen next in Peru?

Many agree that the essential turn point in ending the unrest is holding new elections and this as fast as possible. The Peruvian Congress gave initial support to moving the scheduled 2026 Presidential vote to April 2024, but now there is massive anxiety to hold the election later this year in 2023. Current polls in Peru confirmed that 75% of the Peruvian population would welcome elections this year.

At least establishing a definite timeline for new elections could calm down the protests, but obviously that would not mean that the political issues in the country are solved.

How safe is it to travel to Peru right now?

Many visitors have been stranded in Peru and others have canceled trips for security concerns. The closure of tourist attractions like Machu Picchu that was shut in January 2023 following the protest, did not help either.

Currently, the U.S. State Department with its security advisory has Peru on a “Level 3” which means “reconsider travel” and Britain advises visitors to avoid all areas of protests, which include most tourist sites and principal cities like Lima, Cusco and Puno.

Please also consider reading our content in the Safety, Security & Travel Advice Series Peru for general guidance on what to avoid and how to behave when visiting the country.

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