In Latin America it is rare, but it happens. In Peru, six presidents and three members of Congress have changed in the last seven years. Since 2016, there have been seven attempts to impeach a head of state. Three former presidents have ended up in pre-trial detention, while a fourth committed suicide to avoid arrest.
And coincidentally, Vice President Dina Boluarte became the first female president of this Andean country. But their succession did not stem the tide of corruption scandals that to this day fuel an endless struggle for power between the legislative and executive branches of government.
«How is a woman president going to run the country with an absolute majority of opposition?» — exclaimed Congressman Jose Balcazar, who found nothing better to do than accuse Boluarte of ignoring the needs of her people. And how have previous men presidents governed?
It all seems like a circus. A female president says she is not going to resign until the next general elections in 2026 while asking Congress to call early elections. The congressmen, on the other hand, say they are ready to go for early elections but postpone the date indefinitely. Meanwhile, the population is rioting, and the police are in no hurry to disperse opponents of the government.
Impeachments and arrests of top officials, states of emergency and violence, the Maoist-Leninist guerrilla movement and drug trafficking have become the «brand» of Peruvian democracy. Peru has been plagued by political corruption for years, which has resulted in the country waking up with a new president every two years from 2016 until now. The penultimate one, a rural marginal teacher, appointed more than 80 ministers, many of whom, like himself, knew nothing about politics or governance. President Castillo was the subject of six criminal investigations that were easily pinned on him by professionals.
The 60-year-old Dina Boluarte, a Marxist lawyer, surprisingly to everyone, withstood a ten-month siege and political violence. She declared a state of emergency throughout the country, suspended the rights of assembly and freedom of movement, as well as other civil liberties. These measures solved the issues of her personal rule. But not the problems of the country’s residents.
In 2023, according to Statista, Peru faced three major problems: corruption, cocaine and political instability. «This is a decapitated country heading toward the abyss. Politicians should say ‘we hear you’ and resign, that’s the short-term solution, but we have politicians who are far from the urgency that the situation demands», argues sociologist Sandro Venturo. Of those in power, no one has heard him.
A quarter of Peru’s 33 million people live in poverty. In November, the UN warned that Peru has the lowest level of food security in South America, with half of the population without regular access to food.
Amid the chaos in Peru, only one ship remained afloat — the economy, holding on to a wave of high natural resource prices. The wave has subsided, and just this week, the Moodys rating agency, for the first time in 20 years, downgraded the country’s rating from stable to negative due to political instability.
But while the extractive industry has taken a sharp downturn, Peru, along with Colombia, has become the world’s largest producer of coca leaves and now the cocaine produced from them, according to the UN. Peru’s coca acreage in 2022 is up 18% from 2021, most relevant in the Amazon indigenous areas near Brazil and Colombia.
In the late 1980s, I had the opportunity to visit Peru on a business trip. A military police helicopter showed us, journalists, the plantations and production of coca paste. Even then it raised a lot of questions. Why aren’t the plantations destroyed? Why do the peasants cultivate coca, forgetting about other useful plants? Why are these plantations protected and controlled by both left and right, as well as by state organizations? And why is the struggle being waged only in words and only against competitors? It was already clear then that everyone from the extreme left to the extreme right was involved in coca production.
Nothing much has changed since then. Except that Peru has gone from being an agricultural producer of coca to an industrial producer of cocaine. Traditional coca cultivation remains legal, and coca producers are a powerful political force. According to InSight Crime, coca cultivation in Peru has increased from 61,777 hectares in 2020 to 80,681 hectares in 2021.
In 2023, Peru has about 100,000 military personnel operating on the «front lines» of the drug war. Their activities are hampered by private and public structures … U.S. that pay Peruvian peasants to cultivate coca.
In 2017, the Peruvian government unveiled an ambitious plan to cut coca cultivation in half by 2021. The plan failed due to resistance from peasants who find it easier to grow «weeds» rather than corn and other crops. As a result, by that same year, 2021, Peru had planted a record 80,000 hectares of coca and continued to export coca and coca paste to Bolivia, where they paid big bucks for it.
Peruvian security expert Pedro Yaranga believes that the main reason is «a lack of political will and the influence of powerful external forces from both the Western and Eastern worlds». For this reason, says the expert, «in the last five years, Peru has abandoned its policy of fighting drug trafficking».
The Supreme Court of Peru is the highest judicial body in the country. And the main distributor and exporter of cocaine around the world, with the knowledge and blessing of the United States. It is drug dollars that pay for all the subversive operations of the United States. Probably, even the undermining of Nord Stream. Illegal drug trafficking is still estimated at about 3.9 billion dollars, more than gold speculation, which is currently occupied by Jewish capital.
The illegal gold trade is Peru’s second «headache», eclipsing the plunder of the conquistadors. And it is connected with money laundering, which involved an American firm with offices in Miami and Dallas. There are reports that a Russian firm is also involved in the scheme. But both anonymous companies covered themselves well.
In December 2022, Vice President Dina Boluarte miraculously became president after the arrest of her predecessor Pedro Castillo. And he, as we wrote above, became the fifth head of state to be accused of corruption and put behind bars. In fact, foolishly.
He was a nobody.
How did Peru’s machista conservatives allow a «woman president» to hold on to power for almost a year? And despite the fact that she has already been rejected twice by Latin America’s temporary suzerain, U.S. President Joe Biden? The question remains.
In 2022, 401,740 Peruvians left the country and did not return, four times as many as the 110,185 who did the same in 2021. But Washington doesn’t stutter about them, preferring to talk about refugees from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. It’s more convenient that way.
Of them, only one has returned to Peru — the great man and writer Mario Vargas Llosa. In his 88 years, the genius from Arequipa has, as he said, «retired» after his recent publication of his latest novel, Le dedico mi silencio («I dedicate my silence to you»).
And I remembered that in Lima, the only world capital, there are monuments to generals who never won a battle in their lifetime. Maybe the Peruvian authorities will erect a monument to the great Vargas Llosa, who with just one word defeated the foul-mouthed and enemy descendants of the Inca conquerors.