Boluarte faces challenges
Dec. 9, 2022
Peru’s new leader, President Dina Boluarte, is a leftist from poor, rural origins, like her predecesor. But she has diverged with former president Pedro Castillo over the past year, refusing to serve on his last cabinet, and kicked out of the Peru Libre party. She has praised a kind of politics “that allows divergence and criticism” rather than one “where there are no infallible or untouchable leaders.” (New York Times)
In her inaugural speech she cited author José María Arguedas, like her, a native of the Apurímac region. “I commit myself to fight so that the nobodies, the excluded and the outsiders have access to what they have always been denied.” (Guardian)
But Boluarte faces difficult governance challenges: “She has no political party, no natural allies, very little political support, and is tasked with governing a country that has already had seven presidents in the last seven years—and looks unlikely to show greater patience this time around,” writes Andrea Moncada in Americas Quarterly.
Castillo appeared in court to face charges of rebellion and conspiracy, yesterday. The court is expected to decide if Castillo will be held in preliminary detention as he faces charges for “breaching constitutional order” after his failed attempt to shut-down Congress, on Wednesday, and rule by presidential fiat. (Guardian)
Other charges Castillo faces date to earlier this year, accusing him of running a criminal organization, influence peddling, and collusion. In parallel, Castillo also faces an investigation into his alleged role in influencing Peru’s state-owned oil company, PetroPerú, into buying biofuel from a petroleum company. He is also accused of helping award public works contracts worth $8.6 million from the Ministry of Housing and Construction to contractors connected to his family and friends. (InSight Crime)
While Castillo’s attempted self-coup was rotundly criticized by the U.S. and the OAS, Mexico and Bolivia’s presidents noted the context of intense conflict Castillo faced with the political opposition. (Guardian)
Peru’s political crisis this week reflects a regional trend: distrust and populism are on the rise — fueled by corruption, frustration with growing inequality, and anger at elites — but many Latin American democracies are also proving to be surprisingly resilient, according to the New York Times.
“They’re not thriving,” Steve Levitsky, a government professor at Harvard University, said, speaking of Latin American democracies, “but they are surviving, and that is not a small thing.” — New York Times
The Economist’s final Bello column laments the shortfalls of Latin America’s democracy: “Missing still are the virtues that geography has hindered and that Andrés Bello stood for: the rule of law, better public education, openness and regional co-operation. That is where the battle lies.”
Moisés Naím gives an overview of the region’s politics and economics, as well as recent developments in Venezuela with Brian Winter in the AQ Podcast.
Resumed negotiations between Venezuela’s Maduro government and the political opposition “are essential to protecting rights in the country. But it is equally important to keep pursuing international scrutiny of abuses—so victims can eventually have access to justice, and also to create the right incentives for political negotiations to result in a successful democratic transition,” warns Human Rights Watch deputy Americas director Tamara Taraciuk Broner in Americas Quarterly.
A Guatemalan court has found a former president Otto Pérez Molina and his vice-president Roxana Baldetti guilty on charges of illicit association and customs fraud. They were sentenced to 16 years in prison. The decision comes over seven years after the two were forced to resign from office. Yet, many analysts say the ruling does not come as a clear case of justice for their acts of corruption, reports the Guardian.
A massive surge in violence in Mexico, last weekend, demonstrates the failure of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s approach to using the army against the country’s criminal organizations. Though he originally promised to demilitarize policing, AMLO has increasingly relied on Mexico’s armed forces for internal security, reports the Guardian.
A Times Magazine-ProPublica investigation reveals how the U.S. painstakingly built a case against former Mexican defense minister, retired general Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, suspected of links to organized crime — and then decided to let him go after Mexico’s government protested. “The episode is likely to define the limits of U.S. security policy in Mexico for years to come.”
Marijuana legalization in the U.S. has had major implications for Mexico’s organized crime groups. They have adapted and turned to the mass production of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl — and also turned inward in an attempt to capitalize on Mexico’s growing domestic market for marijuana, reports InSight Crime.
Residents Soyapango in El Salvador, the city where the government has carried out a military siege targeting gangs, said shared divided feelings about the state of exception with El Faro English. “Some expressed thanks for the patrols of soldiers, who they say have protected them. Others fear that they could be wrongfully captured and held for months, citing the dozens of confirmed in-custody deaths and reports of torture and other abuse.” (See Wednesday’s post.)
Honduras’ state of exception goes even farther — on paper — than El Salvador’s, according to El Faro English. Pending ratification from a divided Congress within 30 days, affected communities have lost the right to free transit, protection from forced displacement; freedom of association; "personal freedom;" the right to post bail; the prohibition of detentions without a warrant; and the right to "not be arrested for obligations not stemming from a crime." (See Wednesday’s post.)