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Peru’s Fragile Democracy at Risk as Protesters Take to the Streets

By Mara Lafontaine · August 1, 2023

In brief…

  • Dina Boluarte, Peru's acting president, has only a 12% approval rating in the midst of nationwide protests and violent repression.
  • Peru scholar Jo-Marie Burt predicts more protests, police violence, chaos, and instability as a corrupt coalition in Peru's congress clings to power.
  • Burt says a right-wing alliance is actively dismantling Peru's democracy, weakening its rule of law and public institutions.
  • Amnesty International reports that 49 protesters were killed and hundreds injured between December 2022 and February 2023.
  • Burt attributes the unrest to right-wing political firebrand Keiko Fujimori and her unbridled ambition.
  • Burt urges the United States pull its support from Boluarte and demand free elections for Peru.
Memorial for Peruvian anti-government protestors killed by police.  Mayimbú / CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Peru’s acting president, Dina Boluarte, faces widespread protests as she clings to power despite a mere 12% approval rating. At the same time, a controversial alliance has emerged between leftist politicians and far-right leader Keiko Fujimori that, experts believe, has placed Peru’s fragile democracy at risk.

Boluarte initially proposed early elections, but the conservative coalition controlling Congress rejected it, seeking changes to ensure their victory in 2026. Amnesty International, meanwhile, reports 49 protesters killed and hundreds injured between December 2022, when Boluarte took office, and February 2023.

Keiko Fujimori’s quest for power, meanwhile, has been an ongoing factor throughout Peru’s season of political unrest. Boluarte is “giving essentially free rein to this right-wing alliance, not only to govern, but to destroy Peru’s democracy,” noted Peru scholar Jo-Marie Burt told Al Jazeera. In the past seven months, says Burt, “Congress has engaged in a series of actions that have weakened Peru’s rule of law, weakened its democratic institutions, and really eviscerated the balance of powers, which is essential to any democracy… It’s not just that she’s ruling side by side with this right-wing alliance, but this right-wing alliance is literally dismantling Peru’s democracy before our very eyes.”

Deposed President Pedro Castillo’s imprisonment following a so-called “self-coup” attempt and Fujimori’s efforts to undermine his governance add to the complexity of a deteriorating political situation.

Burt urged the United States and other nations to withdraw support from Boluarte’s regime and instead push for early elections with the hope of providing Peru with new leadership free from corruption and criminality.

The future appears grim with continued protests, police violence, and instability as the odd-couple reigning coalition consolidates its hold on power. Meanwhile, Peru’s democracy and the rights of millions of Peruvians hang in the balance.