Last week, thousands of Peruvians took to the streets to demand a government that they feel represents them.
At the end of July, President Martín Vizcarra proposed to bring general elections forward to next year, as opposed to 2021, even if that means he would have to step down. A recent Ipsos poll showed that 75 percent of Peruvian citizens supported earlier elections, and after Vizcarra announced the proposal, social media exploded with the handles #ElPeruPrimero (Peru first) and #VizcarraSíMeRepresenta (Vizcarra does represent me).
Vizcarra does not have a majority in Congress, which is held by right-wing Fujimoristas. Although it is possible that the opposition block the move, doing so would push Vizcarra to call a vote of confidence. If Congress subsequently reject this, then the president has the power to both dissolve Congress and hold elections within four months.
A survey from August this year carried out by the Institute of Peruvian studies showed that 87 percent of Peruvians would prefer current members of Congress to leave, even if those that replace them may not be any better. Citizens have become increasingly disillusioned with their government after corruption scandals rocked the political sphere: All living former presidents of Peru are either in prison or under investigation for corruption charges. When Vizcarra held a referendum in December 2018 to pass anti-corruption measures, voting turnout was 73 percent.
The protests took place not only in the capital of Lima, but across the globe. According to El País, civilians protested in the cities of Ancash, Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cusco, Huancayo, Ica, Iquitos, Lima, Piura, Puno, Trujillo and Tumbes. Peruvians in New York and Paris also took part in marches, holding banners with slogans such as Let them [members of Congress] all go! and Vizcarra, listen, close Congress!
At a press conference on Wednesday, September 4, Vizcarra made the point that although Congress is attempting to damage him and his cabinet, they are really damaging Peruvians.
“This is why the people have reacted with ‘enough!’ and organizations have organized a completely justified protest tomorrow,” he said.
Vizcarra has been at odds with Peruvian Congress since he stepped into office, following the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. If the two entities refuse to cooperate, then a constitutional crisis will develop resulting either in the removal of Vizcarra and his cabinet, or the removal of Congress. What remains clear is that Peru’s people want change.
Frances Jenner is currently a writer at Latin America Reports and is based in Medellín, Colombia, covering violence, minority rights and politics. She has lived in Vietnam, Spain and France, and her work has been published on The Next Web and The Bogota Post.