, ,

There Is a Political Coup In Peru. And President Pedro Castillo Has Been Detained. What Is Going On?

What is going on in Peru?

The late 2010s and early 2020s were a rocky period in South America and in the Caribbean. Within a few years, the region often known for its political instability, saw several brutal political upheavals taking place. In July 2021, Jovenel Moise, the former president of Haiti, was brutally gunned down by a group of foreign mercenaries, among which, Colombian soldiers. This chaotic event plunged the island of Toussaint Louverture in a wider spiral of destruction. Though qualified as a “shit-hole country” by Donald Trump himself, Haiti has been, along with Cuba and Puerto-Rico, lands of rebellion and anti-colonial resistance. Haiti, as we know it, has been maintained in this position of destruction by the US, Canadian and French superpowers for their own financial advantages, as the island is geographically strategic to them regarding their influence in the Caribbean area.

Pedro Castillo: The Social Context

A few years prior, Chileans took to the streets to denounce social inequality maintained by the government of ex-president Sebastian Pinera. These mass Chilean protests would be followed by a revolution in Colombia where the youth organized massively to denounce the same social inequality, as well as a system of police brutality. These revolts proved efficient as they led to the election of Gustavo Petro and his first black vice-president Francia Marquez, who had been working as an activist for land protection in her hometown.

Though South Americans and Latin Caribbeans are not amateurs in terms of revolution, these upheavals took place at a time when the discussion regarding racism, colonialism and imperialism were at the center of the world. It is worth mentioning that the Chilean, Colombian revolutions were led by the youth, hence a generation connected to social media and the Internet. These movements of rebellion also paved the way to the election of Pedro Castillo. Born in 1969, Castillo came from an indigenous Peruvian family of farmers. He was raised in destitution and had to collect funds to pay for his studies since his parents had no money to help him.

From the time he announced his candidacy, the news was met with attacks and condemnation from the Peruvian political class. If Latinized American countries differ from one another due to the great variety of cultures among them, one issue remains. The legacy of 1492, colonialism and domination have been rooted in politics for centuries. Most Latin Caribbean and South American presidents rely on the prospect of Latinidad. They support the tri-racial myth to assert the illegal white presence in the spheres of control, whether in politics or in art. Since they believe that the idea of Latinidad erases races, colors and differences, all South Americans and Caribbeans being reduced to the label “Latinos”, the white presidents can, thus, claim to lead following this prism of pseudo-equality.

In that sense, though the Dominican Republic is mostly Afro-Caribbean, the current president Luis Abinader has no racial ties to the land. He was born to a Lebanese father and a white Dominican mother whose ancestry dates back to the early days of the island colonial era. This issue of blood remains interesting, especially when European presidents and leaders advance this idea of blood relation to the land in order to govern. It would be impossible to a Polish man to be governed by a Polish politician of Indian or Zimbabwean descent. Yet, in the southern sphere, the principle of Latinidad does not prevent the elite from remaining racially foreign and different from the indigenous people. In Peru, the nation was led by the Fujimori dynasty, of Japanese descent, and/or greatly by white presidents of Polish descent. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was also another recent example of this constant white presence in South American nations. Even in Cuba, though the island was always a land of rebellion since the times of Hatuey in the 15th century, the government has always been led by a white majority, the Castro brothers illustrating our argument.

If the Northern and Western Europeans keep exploiting the resources of Africa to maintain their domination, the plunder of South America and the Caribbean, especially when it comes to gold, oil and diamonds, proved to be necessary for the Latin colonizers. Through the election of these Euro descendant presidents, Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom and the United States developed a solid network which allows them to exploit natural resources to their own advantages. And after centuries of colonial manipulation, a great part of the South American and Caribbean population was conditioned to accept the election of white leaders, as they believe that their European heritage is synonym with excellence and superiority.

The initial rejection of Pedro Castillo was deeply rooted in racism towards him, from his Peruvian detractors and the politicians opposed to him. Like many other South American nations, Peru was built on racism towards the Natives and the African descendants, who have been placed at the bottom of Peruvian society, where the proximity to whiteness is synonym with progress.

Castillo was not initially judged on his political agenda at all, but this rejection was nurtured by his Native origins and poor social background. It is the image of the Indio which was perpetuated through him. “How can one poor Native lead a nation?”, many detractors thought. In that sense, his access to power is clearly reminiscent of Hugo Chavez’. The latter was a vocal anti-US leader, also extremely proud of his Indigenous and African ancestry. Although the son of poor Venezuelans, Chavez faced the same rejection, not based on his political program initially, but on his heritage.

Therefore, it is clear that the political authorities in the West would not be happy with the election of a left-wing, Native candidate who represented the heart of the native Peruvian population, at all. These factors were strong enough to alarm the US. Indeed, before yersterday’s destitution, the Peruvian Congress had tried to impeach him twice.

The revolutions which took place all over South America came at a time of heavy tensions between the Western and Eastern blocks. As Russia has been extending its influence and power in Africa, convincing former French African colonies to join them, the US and Western Europeans fear a pro-Russian coalition could form within the Caribbean and South American spheres.

Pedro Castillo, The Racism And The Peruvian Business Elite

The biggest opponents to Castillo were the members of the business group. As a conservatist country which perpetuates the horror of colonialism, Peru is, for the elite, one of the main key nations of South America. This reality has been amplified by its natural resources, notably gold. These resources were never exploited for the benefit of the Peruvian people at all but came to the hands of corporations, whether Peruvian or foreign. Though attacked before he even put his policy in place, Castillo’s presidency was not as chaotic as many thought it would be.

According to Bloomberg [1], in late 2021, Peru had experienced a growth in its economy, a good evolution which proved to be promising. When it comes to the domestic policy, Castillo remained close to his agrarian roots. He tackled the issue of exploitation of the land and funded, as early as 2021, an agrarian reform to support the farmer communities which struggle with organized impoverishment.[2]

As mentioned previously, since the early days of his presidency, the Peruvian Congress had attempted to impeach him even though there was no evidence of corruption from his part. This same coup was used against Evo Morales whose background reflects Castillo’s. Born to indigenous farmer parents, Morales was a fervent supporter of anti-colonialism, indigenous and African rights and was against the Western political influence in his country.

From the political point of view itself, Castillo did not prove to be a corrupt agent at all, but rather a politician who thought of giving more rights to the isolated groups of his country. His desire of gatekeeping the wealth surely put him in a position of danger. Therefore, this coup was also rooted and motivated by racism itself.

The Peruvian elite, like many other Latinized American countries, enjoys materialism, Westernization and the proximity to whiteness they consider a symbol of progress. Since the idea of progress of a Latinized nation means embracing the concept of whiteness, there needs to be a proximity to the Western block. In that sense, having Pedro Castillo as a president was synonym with backwardness and inferiority, especially since the Native body is synonym with failure, poverty, lack of education. The Peruvian press nourished the hatred towards Castillo playing with racist stereotypes which made reference to his Native heritage [3]. Consequently, it is clear that the election of the leader could not go hand in hand with the business/elitist Peruvian/Western coalition could not tolerate such change.

In the early days of his election, far-right movements were already organizing to destibilize his presidency and remove him from office, being in talks with far-right Spanish groups.[4]

As of now, Pedro Castillo is being held for rebellion and is hoping to find political asylum in Mexico.


[1] Boyd, Sebastian, “Peru’s Economy Grew 11.4% in Third Quarter, Topping 2019 Level”, Bloomberg, November 21th, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-20/peru-s-economy-grew-11-4-in-third-quarter-topping-2019-level?leadSource=uverify%20wall

[2] “Pedro Castillo anuncia alza del sueldo mínimo a S/ 1,000 para trabajadores formales”, Gestion, November 2021, https://gestion.pe/economia/remuneracion-minima-vital-sueldo-pedro-castillo-anuncia-alza-del-sueldo-minimo-a-s-1000-desde-diciembre-para-trabajadores-formales-100-dias-de-gobierno-nndc-noticia/?ref=gesr

[3] Garcia-Cano, Regina, “Peru’s ex-president faced bigotry for impoverished past”, AFP, December 10th, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/latin-america-peru-discrimination-government-and-politics-33f5b1ab4358a3a7a89014f3a817800b

[4] Cabral, Ernesto, Salazar Vega, Elizabeth”Militares en retiro con discursos extremistas se vinculan a políticos para apoyar la vacancia”, Ojo Publico, December 1st, 2021 https://ojo-publico.com/3207/militares-en-retiro-discursos-extremistas-y-apoyo-politico

Other source

Castillo lanza la segunda reforma agraria de Perú y remarca que no busca “expropiar tierras ni afectar derechos”, EUROPAPRESS, 2021, https://www.europapress.es/internacional/noticia-castillo-lanza-segunda-reforma-agraria-peru-remarca-no-busca-expropiar-tierras-afectar-derechos-20211004030637.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: