On Dec. 7, 2022, democratically-elected President Pedro Castillo was ousted in a congressional coup and replaced by his Vice President, Dina Boluarte. Since Castillo’s ouster, millions of Peruvians have taken to the streets to denounce the coup, and demand new elections and a new constitution. Police and military repression have killed more than 50 people thus far, but the resistance shows no signs of abating. TRNN reports live from the ground in Peru.
This story, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, is part of The Real News Network’s Workers of the World series, telling the stories of workers around the globe building collective power and redefining the future of work on their own terms.
Producer: Martín Varese
Videographer: Adrián Hartill
Video editor: Yaima Bacallao
Audio Post-Production: Tommy Harron
Reporter: For weeks the working class and oppressed people of Peru have been on the streets to protest against the interim presidency of Dina Boluarte.
The protests started after the ousting of democratically-elected President Pedro Castillo. On December 7, the right-wing and business-oriented Peruvian Congress ousted Pedro Castillo and replaced him with his vice president Dina Boluarte.
From the first moment, Boluarte appointed a pro-business work minister that pursued policies undermining workers’ rights combined with mass repression by military and police forces.
Protester at the 4 Suyos March in Lima: I’m outraged with this killer president Dina, assassin, usurper. Now let’s go to Congress to take out that Dina. Despite being a woman, despite being a mother she is killing us. In my province, Ayacucho she killed our young students. They said that we are vandals, that we are terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are the people, the people that fights for the motherland.
Chanting: Dina assassin. People hate you!
Reporter: The protests began with the demand to release Pedro Castillo. However, more and more people joined the demonstrations to show their discontent about what is happening in Peru in a broader sense.
Workers took to the streets against exploitation, the lack of workers’ rights as well as the exploitation of the country’s resources, both by the country’s oligarchy and by international corporations.
Now Peruvians are demanding new general elections as well as elections to start a new constitutional assembly to create a new constitution to replace the one from 1993 written during the Fujimori era. Protesters are calling for a change of what they call a profoundly corrupt political system and to create a new one that would defend the interest of the Peruvian working class.
Hilda Figueroa – Trade Union leader SITOMUN (Workers of Lima Municipality): This is why the people of the country are outraged because workers are going through a tough situation miners, the proletariat is in a very difficult crisis. Salaries are very low, the costs of living are high. And with our miserable salaries, we need to find a second job.
Regrettably Peru is in a total crisis. There is a crisis in every single sense. It’s been 30 years of Fujimorism that has been changing the constitution for their own benefit. They have sold away our country and this is the consequence of that. Corruption has been growing like an avalanche. We are now paying the consequence of that corruption. The population and the workers are tired of all the exploitation.
Reporter: Decades of neoliberal policies in Peru have undermined workers’ and human rights in the country.
Workers’ rights have become highly flexible and there is virtually no legal way for workers to guarantee their rights.
The rate of informal workers reached 70.8% in June 2022.
In the Peruvian provinces outside of Lima, people cannot access fundamental rights such as having a house, drinking water, or accessing healthcare and education.
Héctor Simón Flores – Trade Union Leader at AJE (“Big Cola” producer.) The population and the workers are tired of all the exploitation. The economic elite and the right-wing have, through a national monopoly control over the entire economy. That’s the reason for the discontent of the people of Peru. They call us “terrorists” for raising our voice for our rights. We as workers are demanding that Dina Boluarte resigns. The people didn’t choose her as President. We also demand a new constitution. The constitution of 1993 is what allows the exploitation of poor people, favors billionaires. The people are fed up and has risen up as we can see.
Chanting: This democracy is not longer a democracy!
Lucio Castro Chipana – General Secretary SUTEP (Teacher’s union): We are here to express the discontent and weariness that Peruvians are feeling, and to demand a change in the neoliberal economic model implemented in our country 30 years ago. We are also here to express our solidarity with the people killed in the country, about 50 and to demand that there is not one more person killed in Peru. No to vandalism, no to repression at hands of police and military forces!
We are here to talk about the need to advance the elections, and we say October. We also demand a constitutional referendum that will allow the Peruvian people, decide if they want a new constitution. The teachers of Peru, we are convinced that we need to change the constitution!
Chanting: If we are with the Aimaras, nobody gets tired! If we are with the Quechuas, nobody gets tired!
Reporter: The most recent round of protests started in the provinces of Peru, mainly in the south of the country, and started with mostly Aimara’s and Quechua’s Indigenous and rural people of the Andes. But the protests rapidly spread after several people were killed by police and military repression.
After weeks protesters arrived in the capital, Lima, to show the anger of the people in the center of power. People have called this the second march of the Four Suyos.
Workers and oppressed people from around Peru have arrived to Lima to express their outrage for what has been happening in the country in the last decades.
Protester at the 4 Suyos March in Lima: Everything is orchestrated, and that government is orchestrating everything. They cut off the street lights. Why? To shoot at us! Because if there is no light, everybody will turn a blind eye!
Protester at the 4 Suyos March in Lima: We say it here, we are not afraid of Dina Boluarte and if we need to die, we will die for our motherland! I fight for my children, I fight for my Peru. I’m going to give my life if necessary!
Reporter: The right-wing Congress and the oligarchy both support the Boluarte government, which explains partly how it has been able to keep power despite having extremely low approval rates. With the help of the police and military, the government has been cracking down hard on protests.
Protester at the 4 Suyos March in Lima: We are here because our brothers and our children were illegally detained this morning. They are imprisoned here, this is why we are protesting. We are also protesting for our fellow citizens of other regions, that came to protest. They have been imprisoned, and they have been massacred. They are unjustly arrested and this happens every day.
We are fed up. Here, the attorney general, the Congress, Dina Boluarte, every single instance are involved in the corruption. We are fed up. We don’t have peace. This is state terrorism, we are back to the 1990s.
Ervin Hualpacuse Molina – Trade unionist at CELIMA (Construction materials company of Lima): Today, even the fact of us being able to exist as a trade union, is undermined by a government (Boluarte’s) that from its beginnings is killing the people. That wants to stay in power through bullets and blood. Even the minister of labor that they chose was close to business people.
Our country is dominated by foreign politics. To get rid of that, we definitely need a popular victory on the streets. Overhaul the system and change the model of development. Our participation (as workers) is vital. To participate democratically, from our bases in assemblies where people discuss the issues.
(The government and the political class) are attacking the working class with bullets. And with laws that want to eliminate our rights. This fight definitely needs to continue. It needs to escalate to an indefinite national strike. We need to unify the country and all the workers need to go on strike. To overthrow this government, be seen and ensure our workers’ rights.
Chanting: The spilled blood will never be forgotten. The spilled blood will never be forgotten.
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