Peru’s President Castillo arrested – political crisis deepens

Pedro Castillo, photographed in 2021 (CC/Braian Reyna Guerrero)

Peru was thrust into a deeper political and social crisis following the arrest of the former President, Pedro Castillo, and the vote by the Congress to remove him from office. This followed Castillo declaring his intention to suspend the Congress and form a government of “exception”.  His arrest and impeachment was carried out by reactionary forces that the CWI firmly opposes.

These dramatic events are part of the political and social  convulsions sweeping Latin America and the second “pink wave” which has swept the continent with the election of a series of “radical left” Presidents in Chile, Colombia and Peru. Yet once in power these new “left” governments have rapidly sought to compromise with capitalism and have rapidly moved to the right and failed to enact radical left or socialist policies which encroach on capitalism.

Castillo was no exception. Elected with a narrow majority in 2021, standing for the socialist Peru Libre party, which declares itself Marxist/Leninist, he rapidly tried to compromise with a section of the ruling class in Peru. Peru Libre demanded he leave the party, which he did shortly after the election, for abandoning its principles and implementing neo-liberal policies. His government was in crisis from the beginning. Since winning the election, no less than eighty ministers and five prime ministers have resigned or been replaced. This is a continuation of the political turmoil which has rocked Peru in recent years. It has had six Presidents since 2018 – only two of which have been elected.

Blow to ruling class

Castillo narrowly won the election, with 50.277% of the vote. His victory was a big blow to the ruling class, which rallied to the support of Keiko Fujimori, the candidate of corruption and reaction. Her party defends the dictatorship of her father, Alberto Fujimori (who ruled from 1990-2000). He is in prison for crimes against humanity. However, having inflicted this blow against the ruling class, Castillo immediately attempted to make peace with sections of the ruling class. During the second round of the election campaign, he defended the role of the private sector and pledged to govern “responsibly” and as a moderate. He opposed abortion, same sex marriage and sex education. He argued that he is a progressive and not a “socialist” or “communist”. He was a leader of the teachers union and seen as a representative of the poor and oppressed. Peru Libre nominated him as the party leader, after the previous candidate, Vladimir Cerrón, faced dubious corruption charges. Yet the ruling elite never accepted Castillo and have sought to remove him from power ever since his election victory. They would not trust Castillo and feared what his election represented. Twice they have attempted to impeach Castillo.

Castillio announced he was closing the Congress hours before a third attempt at impeachment. This was to be voted on grounds of “moral incapacity” due to corruption allegations. Whether Castillo has been involved in corruption is yet to be proved; however corruption is endemic within the political establishment. Castillo’s chief of staff fled after US$20,000 US dollars in cash was found in his office lavatory! The ruling elite has enacted a coup to remove Castillo who they did not trust.

The Congress in Peru is totally undemocratic, riddled with reaction and corruption. According to one poll, it has an approval rating of 8%! Had Castillo attempted to carry through a programme to break with capitalism, mobilised the working class and poor and built democratically elected committees of struggle from which a democratic socialist government could be based on and convene elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly taking steps to dissolve the Congress would have been correct. This issue arose in Chile in 1973 when the demand to dissolve the capitalist controlled congress that was blocking proposals by the President Salvador Allende. However, in Chile, at the time, there was a democratic alternative in the elected committees of the Cordones industrials based in the factories, the Poder Popular in the cities and neighborhood organisations, like the JAPs.

However, this did not exist in Peru, and Castillo failed to attempt to build similar organisations and implement a programme to break with capitalism. Threatened with impeachment, he acted alone, and the army, judiciary, his divided cabinet and others refused to back him and supported his arrest and impeachment. The vice-President, Dina Boluarte, a “moderate” safe pair of hands for the ruling class, has replaced him in what amounts to a counter-coup being carried out. However, her government will not usher in a period of stability or progress in Peru. Further crises and upheavals will follow. Some protests have taken place opposing the congress and supporting Castillo, yet at this stage they seem limited. This is mainly because of the failure of this government to introduce radical socialist measures and prepare the masses for a struggle to break with capitalism and challenge the reactionary Congress. 

During future upheavals the lessons of the failure of the Castillo government and need for a programme, party and building of mass organisations to break with capitalism need to be drawn.




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