Peru: Was it a Coup?

By Katu Arkonada December 9, 2022 in Tierra Adentro

When Professor Pedro Castillo won the presidential election against Keiko Fujimori -in the second round and by a very narrow margin of 50.125% against 49.875%, a difference of just over 40 thousand votes in a country of 33 million inhabitants, he had two possible paths.

The first was to take to the streets the people of the regions historically forgotten by the political, economic and media elites, as opposed to the middle and upper classes of the capital Lima, which, with 35% of the electoral roll, had traditionally defined the President of Peru. To take to the streets a people that demanded a new Constitution to replace the one promulgated by Fujimori in 1993. To convene a Constituent Assembly that, faced with the power of a unicameral Parliament designed as a counterweight to presidential power, would give rise to a power capable of generating the necessary balance.

The other path, the other alternative, was to try to govern. And Pedro Castillo, in what -now it is easy to say- was his first big mistake, chose to govern.

The problem is that he had to govern in the court (a perverse institutional system totally inclined and designed to the detriment of popular interests), with the rules (Fujimori’s Constitution), and with the referee against him (a Parliament with a Fujimori majority and a leftist minority).

Once Pedro Castillo chose to try to govern, an impeachment process was set in motion, driven by Fujimorism with the coverage of the media oligopolies. And obviously he could never govern with an ultra-fragmented Congress from which he had to ask permission even to appoint ministers.

But Fujimorism had a weapon as perverse as it was powerful, Article 113 of the Constitution, which establishes among the different causes for the vacancy of the President (some are common sense, such as death or resignation) the “permanent moral or physical incapacity, declared by the Congress”.

The first motion of vacancy for permanent moral incapacity came in November, only four months after having been in office, followed by a second one in March 2022, and the third and last one, this December. To illustrate the powerful arguments of the parliamentary opposition to Pedro Castillo, one only has to read the 20 points of the second motion of vacancy, where in addition to accusing Castillo of systematically lying, it is stated that “he has not reflected, much less corrected his conduct; on the contrary, he has insisted on defending his actions”. There are no more words, your honor.

But if we take any definition in political science of coup d’état (translation from French coup d’État), which is normally understood as a usurpation (often violent) of the government of a country, and which we can clearly visualize in what happened in 2019 in the neighboring country, sister Bolivia, we could affirm that the only coup plotters were those who tried to usurp from the legislative power the executive power through motions of vacancy due to permanent moral incapacity.

It is not the purpose of this brief analysis to point out Pedro Castillo’s mistakes: whether he managed the post pandemic and vaccination well or not, whether he should have been tougher or more inflexible both with the caviar left and with his (former) allies of Perú Libre, whether Aníbal Torres had more or less power than he should have as President of the Council of Ministers, even less if Pedro Castillo was wrong to isolate himself or to look for the OAS as a salvation/legitimization table. Not even if there were enough votes for the vacancy motion or if his actions in the last hours of his term were clumsy, not to say suicidal.

None of the above justifies the parliamentary coup by Fujimorism and its political, economic and media allies, before the complicit silence of the international community, and the loneliness in which it was left by a good part of the left that continues to seek revolutions in their classic 20th century format, and does not understand (not to say despises) the popular and the forms of representation, full of contradictions, that it finds to dispute power.

Now it is the turn of Dina Boluarte, the sixth President in six years of a country once ruled by Marshal Santa Cruz. Before her the dilemma is repeated for the second time (and if the first one ended in tragedy with the imprisonment of Pedro Castillo, let us hope this second one does not end in farce): either she tries to govern and finish the mandate in 2026, for which she will undoubtedly have to make a pact with the coup plotters, which is a good part of her cabinet (and policies), or she brings forward the elections to place again the Constituent Assembly on the horizon.

In the meantime, it is about time to change the question Vargas Llosa asks in Conversation in the Cathedral “when did Peru get screwed”, for the question of who screwed Peru. Peru was and continues to be screwed by the political, economic and media coup plotters, with the complicity of some sectors of the left, who do not respect the will of the social majorities.

Source: Tierra Adentro, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – US