Angelina Vasquez ‘22
I find it incredibly frustrating when people in power do not care about their civilians until that responsibility is forced upon them.
As the daughter of two Peruvians and being a Peruvian citizen myself, I do my best to keep myself informed of the political affairs that occur in my parents’ country. I have visited Peru nearly every summer of my entire life, and, unfortunately, I have witnessed how corruption has riddled the Peruvian government system and affected the Peruvians who are most in need.
Earlier this month, Peru’s former president Martín Vizcarra was impeached by Congress over corruption allegations earlier in his political career. Naturally, one would think that this would be an accomplishment for any Congress. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Thousands of young protesters in Peru have taken to the streets to protest this impeachment and the overall corruption that is normalized in Peru’s government. Congress is notorious for a legacy of corrupt leaders in popular political groups.
Vizcarra was elected to office as Vice President under former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) who resigned over corruption allegations as well, along with many previous presidents. However, what was unique about Vizcarra’s case was that the public outrage was directed towards Congress. Congress’ parliamentary members impeached Vizcarra in the middle of a pandemic and five months before a new election. According to a poll published on November 18th by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), 91% of Peru’s population disapproved of Vizcarra's removal. Also, 83% of the population said they believed the decision stemmed from legislators' political or personal interests.
While in office, Vizcarra had clashed with Congress on several issues including educational reform -- a sensitive issue in a country where several universities have close ties to political party leaders and lawmakers. Vizcarra wanted to introduce greater political and judicial reform. In 2018, the country voted in support of his plan to ban consecutive reelection for legislators and tighten regulations on the financing of many corrupt political parties. The ban was extremely unpopular with many lawmakers but was welcomed by ordinary Peruvians.
Therefore, thousands took to the streets in cities across Peru and even abroad, denouncing the impeachment as a "legislative coup.” Protesters held banners and posters with "No to the impeachment" and "Congress go home,” which can be seen on social media.
Then, the head of Congress, Manuel Merino, lawfully filled the seat of presidency. This sparked greater protest in the capital city of Lima, emphasizing that citizens do not feel represented by their Congress. The hashtag #Merinonomerepresenta, which translates to “Merino does not represent me” flooded Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Unfortunately, violence erupted between the protesters and police officers; this lethal encounter resulted in the deaths of two young men and more than 90 people injured.
On November 15th, Merino resigned and was replaced with Franciso Sagasti, a 76-year-old centrist and an important member of one of the only parties that voted against Vizcarra's impeachment. On November 17th, after being sworn in, Sagasti acknowledged the outrage and display of activism from the young protesters. He paid tribute to those who were injured and the two young men who were shot dead in the protests. Finally, Sagasti acknowledged the urgency of a more just government and commended younger generations for exercising their rights and speaking up for the needs of their country.
Corruption cannot and will not go away overnight in Peru, but one can only hope that as more people become involved with their political situation (like so many younger generations have throughout the world, protesting the frustrations many generations before them have felt), progress can occur to create a more ethical government.