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Peru and The Viceroy of Bernechea

By Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni y Guido Leonardo Croxatto

Translation by Percy Lujan, Clau O’Brien Moscoso

Since the unconstitutional removal of Pedro Castillo, president of Peru – a rural teacher from the northern region of Cajamarca, supported by Evo Morales, Petro and AMLO – last December, there have been a series of confusions, not always innocent, about what led to his impeachment.

He was accused of an impossible crime of which he was not even informed by his captors (the police who arrested him aimed at his children with machine guns, in a way that was unnecessary and coup-like). They arrested him violating due process because they arrested him following a superior “order” not because he was caught in flagrancy, the only possible way a president could be detained (or impeached) without a political public trial. 

Firstly, Congress violated its own rules and impeached Castillo with fewer votes than what the law requires. This alone nullifies what is in itself the legality of the impeachment process. There is no motion for impeachment. There are no prosecution documents. In any other case, this would create a legal and international scandal, but because this is an indigenous person, a cholo, from the Andes, a poor rural teacher, it seems less important. But this isn’t less important. It is a very serious thing for a president (the first rural president in Peruvian history) to be impeached with fewer votes than what the law demands. 

Secondly, they violated three articles of the Peruvian constitution which explicitly establish what is the institutional mechanism to remove or suspend a president who tries to dissolve Parliament without having the ability to do so. This was not the procedure followed by the Peruvian Congress, a constitutional accusation for attempting against the constitution. It was an impeachment for “moral incapacity,” a type of accusation very questioned by international institutions. The violation of his rights is double: constitutional and procedural. They stepped all over the text of the constitution, and he was impeached with fewer votes than what the law demands. 

Given that this impeachment is null, because it was conducted without following due process, his removal is illegal and Pedro Castillo continues to be president of Peru.  

Thirdly, from a legal standpoint, he could have not been caught red handed because there was no crime, and out of an ineffective attempt, according to Peruvian law, there can be no punishment. No police supported Castillo. The military made fun of him. Others covered their noses as he walked by because they said he “smelled” (the smell that the rich people from Lima don’t like is the smell of the people, the people who went out to protest when Castillo was overthrown). He could not have been caught in flagrancy. 

Finally, if that had been the case, his arrest could not have been ordered by any official separated from the procedure. His escort did not detain him in flagrante but due to an “order” that arrives as he is being driven to an embassy (meaning, not in fragrante while carrying out a coup, but while he is with his children in the car). He was not detained in flagrancy at all. 

This summarizes a series of illegalities in the procedure. This is a violation of voting rights, a violation of democracy. These are not legal or academic technicalities. This is established by law – no more, no less – written Peruvian procedural, criminal and constitutional law. It is interesting that many lawyers who usually boast about blindly respecting constitutional “procedures” choose to look, like many judges, the other way. In this case, they don’t look so “clean” or too “institutional.”  

The Peruvian ministry of foreign affairs is currently relying on an “additional” budget of millions to try to “wash” the image of this dictatorship internationally. However, the United Nations Human Rights Council has recently excluded Peru. 

It is interesting that the same Congress that prevented Castillo from traveling to see Pope Francis or his European colleagues when he had been invited by them would give this authorization to Dina Boluarte – a president that is illegitimate and who is responsible of dozens of deaths since the start of her government – when she was not even invited. This paradox can be explained politically: Boluarte is backed by Fujimori’s party, with whom Castillo never sat to negotiate. This is why Castillo being president without having killed anyone could not leave the country, and this person – Boluarte – who usurped that position and is responsible for serious crimes, is authorized to leave the country. It is a racist political paradox. They did not want Castillo to be the face of the country before the world: a cholo could not be president. Indigenous women are not allowed to raise their eyes from the ground, like in the wedding of the Dutchess of Bernechea dedicated to celebrate “cultural diversity.” 

Translator’s note: the authors of the article are referring to the wedding of Belén Bernechea, daughter of Peruvian right-wing politician Alfredo Bernechea of the Acción Popular party. Her wedding to Spanish aristocrat Martín Cabello de los Cobos in the northern city of Trujillo in 2022 was criticized by the public for featuring a nuptial procession where indigenous people are shown in chains or on the floor making parallels to colonial times.

There are 75 people dead and families destroyed. Are these lives that were taken so unimportant? 

The goal of this article is to counter a trick employed many times by the human rights organizations: recognize the gravity of the murders committed by the Peruvian state during the protests of last December, separating this, with suspicious thoroughness, from the illegal removal of Castillo and the forced exile of his family (most of those murdered came from regions where Castillo won 90 percent of the votes: Puno, Ayacucho, Cusco, Juliaca and they were his supporters). These are not separate questions for they go hand in hand. Not mentioning the illegal removal of Castillo but speaking about the deaths that followed to an international audience as separate incidents is to misconstrue political and social reality. It is a senseless and untransparent political strategy. We must speak about the totality of what happened: those deaths did not occur on their own or as a result of a magic trick. They did not fall out of the sky and neither were the protests. These were cholos and voters of Castillo who came out from the South to protest in downtown Lima against the irregular and illegal removal of their president. This cannot be separated and much less omitted. It must be said. 

Treating the 75 deaths as a separate question, as an isolated incident, from the removal of Castillo when they were clearly murdered in the protests product of their rejection of the removal of Castillo is a judicial, political, and moral mistake. These questions cannot be dealt separate from each other. It is not excessive to remember that “Mr. Bernechea reacted with horror about the possibility that someone like Pedro Castillo could become president and called for a civic-military union to interrupt democratic process. The call had no effect but it showed the will to revert the electoral process to prevent a cholo from coming to power.” This is what the high class of Lima thought due to its privilege. This is what a large part of Eurocentric academics thought (the same thing happened in Bolivia): that a cholo cannot be president.

Written by Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni and Guido Leonardo Croxatto | Translation by Percy Lujan and Clau O’Brien Moscoso

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“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

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