Yesterday, Dec. 15, was a test of strength between the growing anti-coup movement of the Peruvian masses, who had called for a national strike, and the usurper government of Dina Boluarte, which had declared a state of emergency to smash it through repression.
The extension of the state of emergency from three regions to the whole national territory by the government was aimed at using the army to regain control of the situation and crush the movement. This measure does not show the government’s strength but its weakness, its need to resort to desperate measures in the face of a generalized situation of mass demonstrations, roadblocks and the seizure of strategic installations by workers, peasants and students.
Powerful general strike
The overall balance is that, despite the brutal repression, the media slander (calling the protesters “hooligans”, “violent” and “terrorists”), and the threats from the army and the police, the national strike was a success and the mobilizations were massive.
The roads that the army cleared, the movement closed again. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Cajamarca, Tacna, Cusco, Ayacucho and in towns and cities all over the country. “Here, there, fear is over”, was the slogan that resounded everywhere.
In Lima, despite the huge and disproportionate police presence, the march was very big, bringing together workers, trade unionists, young students from the different universities, as well as all those who had come from different parts of the country to join the national strike in the capital, indigenous people, community members, ronderos, the most oppressed layers of Peruvian society. Then came the police repression, tear gas, arbitrary arrests, mistreatment of detainees and gratuitous violence against the demonstrators.
Heroism of the masses in Ayacucho
Perhaps the most significant events of the national strike occurred in Ayacucho and its homonymous capital (also known as Huamanga). The army had taken over the main Plaza de Armas square and blocked all access to the historic centre, to prevent the national strike demonstrations. We are talking about soldiers armed with weapons of war, assault rifles, facing off against the unarmed population.
This did not stop thousands of workers, trade unionists, peasants, students, the working people in general, from taking to the streets in defiance of the state of emergency. With the force of their unarmed bodies they managed to break through the military blockades and enter the central square to the cry of “this is Ayacucho, brave and militant”.
The mobilized masses responded to the bourgeois media’s slanderous accusation of terrorism by shouting “we are not terrorists, we are fighters”.
The demonstrators then went to the Alfredo Mendívil Duarte regional airport to try to take over the installations. A group of 200 protesters managed to penetrate the perimeter, but were met by army troops shooting to kill with live ammo, as well as military helicopters firing tear gas. According to the official count of DIRESA (Regional Health Directorate) Ayacucho, the “forces of order” killed seven people on the day.
Later, groups of demonstrators burned down the main office of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Ayacucho, located in Ñahuinpuquio, the second building of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to be attacked during the day of the strike.
The regional government of Ayacucho issued a communiqué blaming the repression on “Mrs. Dina Boluarte” (whom they pointedly did not call president) and on the ministers of the interior and defence, who they demand the resignation of.
In addition to those killed in Ayacucho, two more people were killed in yesterday’s repression in La Libertad, in the northwest of the country. The total number of people killed by the usurper government since 7 December now stands at 18, including two minors.
Castillo remains behind bars
Meanwhile, after a delay from the originally scheduled time, the judiciary ordered President Castillo to be remanded in custody for 18 months (!!) for alleged crimes of “rebellion, conspiracy, abuse of authority and serious disturbance of public tranquillity”. They want to keep him behind bars so that he does not become a rallying point for the movement, but this might have the opposite effect. The charges against him have no legal basis. The president acted within his constitutional powers in decreeing the closure of Congress and calling for new elections.
But beyond the legal and constitutional details, which have their importance, the truth is that what happened on 7 December was a coup d’état by the Peruvian capitalist oligarchy, advised by their masters in Washington, against President Castillo. Despite all the concessions and compromises Castillo made to the ruling class, the rulers of Peru could not accept the fact that a teachers’ unionist rondero (from a rural background) was president. They sabotaged his presidency from day one and now they thought the time had come to get rid of him.
They seriously miscalculated. They did not count on the reaction of the workers and peasants. To them this is not just about Castillo’s presidency. For the masses the central factor that is posed starkly by these events is: who rules the country? Who gave the capitalist oligarchy the right to remove the democratically elected president the masses had chosen?
The 18 months of preventive detention imposed by the bourgeois judicial mafia, a component part of the coup plot, is accompanied by the declaration of a five-day curfew in 15 provinces in 8 departments of the country. The list is a map of the hotspots of the popular insurgency against the coup: Arequipa (Arequipa), La Libertad (Virú), Ica (Ica, Pisco), Apurímac (Andahuaylas and Chincheros), Cusco (Cusco, La Convención, Chumbivilcas, Espinar), Puno (Carabaya, San Román), Huancavelica (Tayacaja, Angaraes) and Ayacucho (Cangallo).
Usurpers rely on repression: a dangerous gamble
Clearly, the usurper government of Dina Boluarte calculates that repression will be able to crush the movement. It is a risky and dangerous gamble, which will necessarily result in further bloodshed. The ruling class thinks it is a price worth paying in order to regain control of the situation.
While in the streets the masses were mobilizing and the army and the police were repressing, in Congress, several ideas to bring forward the elections to the end of 2023 were discussed, but without reaching any decision.
It is clear that, for the ruling class and its political representatives, the call for elections is only useful if they manage to control the movement first. This is how the reactionary congressman of Renovación Popular, Jorge Montoya, put it:
“With these people pressuring, you can’t make a decision. Decisions are taken when the country is at peace. You can never make decisions when a gang of criminals is pressuring you to do something. You never negotiate with criminals, and these are criminals. The Armed Forces and the National Police have an obligation to turn this explosion into a calm and peaceful place with security for all Peruvians.”
This is the callous language of those for whom the life of workers and peasants is worthless and democracy is just a fig leaf for the naked rule of capital and imperialism.
In this situation, the movement against the coup must take a new step forward. Several provinces are already on a 72 hour strike, others on indefinite strike. It is necessary to unify the struggles in a new national strike, possibly for 48 or 72 hours. It is necessary to reorganize and strengthen the roadblocks. The formation of Popular Assemblies and Unitary Commands of struggle must be extended throughout the country and coordinated in a National Revolutionary Assembly of Workers and Peasants, with elected and revocable delegates from all the sectors in struggle.
The question of “who rules the country” must be answered in a clear and forceful manner: “kick them all out – the working people shall govern!”