Peru’s President Blamed for Deaths of Protesters in Anti-Government Demonstrations

In a development that has further deepened Peru’s political turmoil, the top prosecutor of the country, Attorney General Patricia Benavides, has filed a constitutional complaint against President Dina Boluarte. The complaint accuses Boluarte of being responsible for the deaths of several demonstrators during anti-government protests that erupted after the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo. This move reignites tensions between the presidency and the judiciary, as Boluarte has labeled the complaint as a “despicable political maneuver”. The president, in turn, has accused Benavides of using the complaint to divert attention from her own legal troubles. The stand-off between Boluarte and Benavides has far-reaching consequences for Peru’s political landscape and raises concerns about the rule of law and human rights in the country.

The constitutional complaint filed by Attorney General Patricia Benavides comes in the wake of extensive street protests and clashes between security forces and demonstrators. Since December 2022, Peru has witnessed widespread civil unrest, with protesters demanding Boluarte’s resignation. The unrest began when President Castillo, Boluarte’s predecessor, was removed from office by lawmakers after attempting to dissolve Congress. Boluarte, who had previously served as Castillo’s vice-president, assumed the presidency following his removal. However, her presidency has been marked by persistent calls for resignation and mass demonstrations, leading to a stand-off between the government and dissatisfied citizens.

During the protests, Peru’s Ombudsperson’s Office documented the deaths of at least 49 protesters and bystanders, who were allegedly killed in clashes with security forces. Human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have accused the security forces of employing disproportionate and lethal force against the demonstrators. The use of firearms by security forces resulting in bullet wounds further adds weight to these allegations. The IACHR’s report published in May highlights the excessive use of force as a significant element in the government’s response to the protests.

Attorney General Benavides initiated an investigation into the deaths of the protesters as early as January. However, the recent constitutional complaint filed against President Boluarte and Prime Minister Luis Alberto Otárola marks the first formal charge brought against the government in connection with the clashes. The complaint accuses the president and the prime minister of murder; however, the constitution prevents criminal trials against sitting presidents and parliamentarians. Instead, a constitutional complaint must be reviewed by a congressional committee for further action. Even if the committee approves the complaint, a trial can only occur once Boluarte and Otárola leave office.

The current political crisis and the accusations against President Boluarte pose serious challenges for Peru’s stability and governance. The country has a history of political unrest, impeachments, and resignations, with no president serving a full five-year term since 2016. Boluarte’s presidency is set to end in July 2026, but the mounting pressure and public dissatisfaction make it uncertain whether she will complete her term. The situation underscores broader concerns about the endurance of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Peru.

The impact of the constitutional complaint and the ongoing political crisis should not be underestimated. Firstly, it undermines public trust in the government and erodes confidence in the president’s ability to address the country’s pressing issues. Secondly, it exacerbates divisions within Peru’s political system, heightening tensions between the executive branch and the judiciary. This conflict undermines the checks and balances necessary for a healthy democracy and raises questions about the independence and integrity of the judicial system.

Furthermore, the international community’s perception of Peru may be negatively affected by the accusations of human rights abuses and the government’s response to protests. Foreign investors and international partners may reevaluate their engagement with the country, potentially impacting economic stability and development.

In light of this news, it is crucial to closely monitor the developments surrounding the constitutional complaint and its potential consequences. The protection of human rights and the fair and transparent judicial process should be prioritized to restore public trust and promote stability in Peru’s political landscape. International actors should also engage with Peru to encourage respect for human rights, support democratic institutions, and promote peaceful dialogue to mitigate further escalations of the crisis.