Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

Dina Boluarte’s government: two months of repression and death in Peru

A little more than 50 days after the fall of Castillo and the rise of Dina Boluarte’s government, Peru is witnessing massive demonstrations demanding “Dina out,” the closing of Congress, early general elections and a Constituent Assembly. But these two months are also ones filled with state violence to a degree that is beginning to be compared to that unleashed during the period of political violence in the last decades of the twentieth century. In some cases, such as the police intervention in the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), the current state violence is being compared to what happened during the Fujimori dictatorship.

By: Amilcar Lobo

As of January 4, the mobilizations in Peru resumed with special strength in the southern highlands of the country, but with a growing national presence in Lima. Protesters imposed road blockades, mobilizations and continued attempts from December to take over the premises of mining and agribusiness companies.

The so-called “Seizure of Lima” was also set in motion, which in concrete terms refers to the mobilization of delegations from the regions of the country where the struggle is strongest (Puno, Cusco, Andahuaylas, Ayacucho) towards the capital to confront the government.

The government’s response has maintained the same line from December. It continues with a brutal repression of the mobilization with pellets and tear gas bombs, extending the State of Emergency for 30 more days in Puno, Cusco, Lima and Callao, violently raiding premises, homes and even the National University of San Marcos (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, UNMSM) and carrying out selective and arbitrary arrests.

According to the National Human Rights Coordinator of Peru, these acts constitute major violations of the human rights of the Peruvian people. “The response of the Peruvian State to the mobilizations has been of a brutality without precedent in the history of democracy in the country (…) Massacres perpetrated in three cities, together with more limited extrajudicial executions in other places.”

At the moment, 57 people have been killed (including 1 policeman) and 1,658 wounded (about 600 policemen), with numbers growing every day.[1] The police and state agents of the Dina government are the ones promoting this massacre, even receiving bonuses (money) for this action, as recently made public by Prime Minister Alberto Otárola.

Repressive practices by the state

The main repressive practices identified by the human rights organizations are:

  1. The use of prohibited ammunition for crowd control, such as metal pellets including 004 caliber, glass marbles and bullets, and a special concern with the use of automatic rifles, including AKM and GALIL in the case of army. Use of tear gas bombs thrown directly at the body of demonstrators;
  2. Indiscriminate use of force affecting not only demonstrators, but also bystanders and even medical aid workers and journalists;
  3. Torture and inhumane and degrading treatment by the PNP (Policía Nacional del Perú, National Police of Peru), with demonstrators being beaten during their confinement and transfer to police stations, as well as the conditions of detention in police facilities, incompatible with human dignity (detainees are confined in overcrowded conditions, without adequate ventilation or infrastructure), in some cases confined in cells of 1.5 x 2 meters, without access to a patio or sunlight, without artificial lighting, being left in the dark from 6pm in the evening;
  4. Sexual violence, with a case of multiple sexual aggression inside a police station against a young woman arrested during the protests; intimate searches and inappropriate touching of female protesters and detained students, particularly during the invasion of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos;
  5. Enabling the armed forces to intervene in the control of internal order and society, with the army already being responsible for the massacre perpetrated in Ayacucho on December 15, 2022;
  6. Infiltration and instigation through WhatsApp and related groups. Lack of visible identification of uniformed police and military personnel. Some of these anonymous interlopers increase acts of vandalism under the cloak of impunity. “Sowing” of incriminating evidence;
  7. Arbitrary arrests, violations of due process and criminalization of citizens who are not committing any crime, only for their participation in the demonstrations, several elderly people, minors, and even street vendors who were trapped inside the police siege. The intervention against the people housed in the San Marcos University, with the detention of 193 people, brutally intervened and deprived of their freedom in undignified conditions, in a similar way to the intervention in a camp of demonstrators in the city of Abancay, in the early morning of December 14, destroying their belongings and detaining more than 50 peasants.
  8. Unnecessary and prolonged imprisonment of the most vulnerable people, such as a woman with her young daughter (at the UNMSM) or pregnant women. Failure to guarantee timely medical assistance to detainees with health problems or who fall ill during detention.
  9. Generate barriers that limit the access of the defenders of the detainees, while they are pressured to sign documents without legal assistance, subject to coercion. To this is added the refusal to provide information in real time on the identity and location of detainees, including minors.

10. Aggressions against human rights defenders, with violation of homes and death threats by military and police officers. Lawyers who go to police stations recurrently suffer mistreatment and obstacles to the exercise of their work, including pushing and shoving that caused some of them to fall.

11. Attacks on journalists. Since January 1, the National Association of Journalists (ANP) has documented 37 aggressions against members of the profession in the context of the mobilizations.

Legalized repression

Anti-terrorist legislation led to serious violations of fundamental rights, especially victimizing the civilian population, in the war between 1980 and 2000. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which used the category of “internal armed conflict,” it was the “most intense, extensive and prolonged episode of violence in the history of the Republic [2].” About 69,000 people died as a result of the actions of the subversive groups and their confrontation with State forces, most of them peasants, as well as ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. [3]

The decree law 25.475 signed by President Fujimori in 1992 meant the installation of a criminal type of terrorism in which any act and any person could be considered as terrorist. This included the restoration of life imprisonment and of a system of penalties violating the principle of proportionality, in addition to other measures.

After more than a decade in force, the Constitutional Court has issued rulings on the anti-terrorist decree-laws, in which it establishes a declaration of unconstitutionality on part of such norms. But it maintains the logic and the same scheme of a legislation of exception, even when the legislation of the Inter-American system for the protection of human rights goes in another direction. It is urgent to reorder this regulatory framework so that it responds to a democratic regime.

These decrees were backed by the 1993 Constitution, which was drafted after Fujimori’s coup d’état on April 5, 1992. Its Article 2 grants the police the power to take into their custody persons accused of terrorism-related crimes for a period of up to 15 days before bringing them before a judge; and Article 140 states that the death penalty may be applied for the crime of treason in case of war… and terrorism. To give two examples.

However, even by the standards of the bourgeoisie, the current circumstances are very different from those that existed during the last two decades of the last century. The maintenance of an anti-terrorist strategy based on the prolongation of the constitutional emergency and the militarization of the State’s response is unjustified. It is only justified to combat social protest on the streets.

There are people who are cited as witnesses in investigations just for having contact in their social networks, with the sole objective of sowing fear in the population and stigmatizing the people under investigation. This is what happened with the investigation for terrorism initiated against 28 peasants who were staying at the Confederación Campesina del Perú. Therefore, it is clear that the vindication of the activists who are in the streets demanding a new Constitution that removes the Fujimorist garbage is more than the order of the day.

Organize to defend against state repression

But that alone is not enough. Acts of state repression against the funeral procession of two of the youths murdered in the region of Andahuaylas, on December 12, 2022; the massacre in Ayacucho on December 15; and the massacre in Juliaca on January 9, with impressive lethality and indiscriminate impacts on the population demonstrate that it is necessary, together with the demands for legal changes and a new constitution, that the working class, peasants and students organize to combat this repression with legitimate self-defense. This is the only way to combat the violence of the state and its arbitrariness.

[1] Public Defender’s Office Report, https://www.infobae.com/peru/2023/01/27/protestas-en-peru-en-vivo-paro-nacional-minuto-a-minuto-lima-ica-cusco-madre-de-dios-puno-estado-de-emergencia-bloqueo-de-carreteras-fotos-videos/

[2] Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (2003). Informe final. 9 volumes. Lima: CVR

[3] The anti-terrorist fighting in Peru: legal black holes, gray holes and the arduous constitutional way. Peruvian lessons for the war on global terrorism The anti-terrorist fighting in Peru: legal black holes, gray holes and the arduous constitutional way. Peruvian lessons for the war on global terrorism Abraham Siles Vallejos: https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=5265501

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