LIMA ( Associated Press) – When Pedro Castillo became Peru’s president last year, his victory was celebrated by the country’s poor people: peasant farmers and indigenous people who live deep in the Andes and whose problems have been ignored for years. went. ,
His supporters hoped that Castillo, a populist with humble roots, would improve his position or at least end his invisibility.
But during his 17 months in office before being ousted and detained on Wednesday, his supporters have seen him face the same racism and discrimination they often experience. Castillo was mocked for wearing a traditional sombrero and poncho, ridiculed for his accent and criticized for incorporating indigenous ceremonies into official acts.
In protest against the Castillo government, a donkey, a symbol of ignorance in Latin America, appeared with a hat like his. The attacks were endless, to the point that observers from the Organization of American States documented them during a recent mission to the deeply unequal and divided country.
Castillo ruined his popularity among the poor, as well as any chance of delivering on his promises to improve their lives, when he stunned the nation on Wednesday by ordering the dissolution of Congress, followed by a wave of insurrection. The charges removed them and took them into custody. … His act of political suicide, reminiscent of some of the darkest moments in the country’s anti-democratic past, came just hours before the Chamber was due to launch a third attempt to impeach him.
Now, with Castillo in custody and the country under the leadership of its former vice president, Dina Boluarte, it remains to be seen whether she will suffer the same discrimination.
Boluarte, a lawyer who worked at the state agency that manages identity documents before assuming the vice presidency, is also not part of Peru’s political elite. He grew up in a poor town in the Andes, speaks an indigenous language, Quechua, and like Castillo from the left, pledged to “fight for the nobles”.
In a report published last week, the Organization of American States highlighted that Peru “has sectors that promote racism and discrimination, and do not accept that individuals from outside traditional political circles can hold the presidency.” but occupied.”
“This has brought dishonor and dishonor to the image of the President,” the report said.
After taking up his new post on Wednesday, Boluaarte called for a compromise with lawmakers who ousted Castillo on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity”.
Peru has had six presidents in the last six years. In 2020, the position changed owners three times in one week.
Castillo, a rural schoolteacher, had never held public office until his narrow runoff victory in June 2021 after a campaign that included a promise to nationalize the country’s key mining industry and rewrite the constitution, which saw him elected Widespread support from poor rural areas.
Peru is the world’s second largest copper exporter and mining accounts for about 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports. But its economy has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated poverty and wiped out gains of the past decade.
Castillo was defeated by just 44,000 votes by one of the best-known names in the country’s political class: Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for killing civilians at the hands of a secret army run by his government. Squad during.
Keiko Fujimori’s supporters have often called Castillo a “terruco” or terrorist, a term used by right-wingers against leftists, the poor, and rural residents.
Once in office, Castillo made more than 70 changes to his government, many of them following allegations of wrongdoing, and faced two impeachment votes and several criminal investigations, ranging from influence peddling to plagiarism. were involved.
Omar Coronel, professor of sociology at Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University, said that although the allegations of corruption and criticism of the president’s lack of experience were well-founded, they were tinged with racism, “a constant in any Peruvian equation.” “
“One can criticize his political inexperience, his clumsiness, his crimes,” Coronel said. But the way the situation was presented, pointing out that Castillo was from a rural community with different customs, is “a deeply racist and tremendously hypocritical speech” because right-wing presidents have also faced corruption charges. Is kept.
“The networks have been filled with visceral racism during these 17 months,” Coronel said.
Since his arrest, Castillo’s few remaining supporters have protested and blocked roads across the country. They have also gathered outside the detention center where they and Alberto Fujimori are being held.
“They called it a discriminatory word,” Castillo supporter Fernando Pictoste said outside the prison on Friday. “This is a racial issue law. In Congress, congressmen who are supposed to have national representation have grounds to insult the president.”
Associated Press writer Franklin Brisinoe contributed to this report.