Things That Matter

Peru Is In Crisis As The Country Searches For A New President Amid Protests And A Police Crackdown

Peru is facing one of the greatest crises the nation has faced. Just as the country seemed to be emerging from the worst of its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has entered a severe political crisis.

In less than a week, the country is on the verge of seeing its third president – if legislators can find someone able and willing to take the job. In the meantime, protesters are making their voices heard in cities all across the country and police are using violence and oppression to silence them.

For a country that was turning the bend on the pandemic, how exactly did Peru end up crashing into one crisis from another?

Peru’s interim-President has resigned just days after assuming the office.

Peruvians woke up on Monday morning still wondering who would be their new head of state after lawmakers failed overnight to name a replacement to become the country’s third president in a week.

It was less than 24 hours earlier that the country’s interim leader Manuel Merino was forced to resign. Following a week of protests against the removal of former President Martín Vizcarra, police responded with increased force over the weekend.

Saturday’s protests in Lima, which are mostly being led by young Peruvians, were largely peaceful but clashes broke out towards the evening between police and protesters. Police reportedly fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to repel demonstrators, some of whom had thrown fireworks and stones. Two students, Jack Pintado, 22, and Inti Sotelo, 24, were killed in the protests.

Politicians immediately called for Merino’s resignation following the violent crackdown. In fact, twelve of his own ministers (of his recently appointed cabinet) resigned in protest against police brutality and his handling of the crisis.

“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address.

It’s still not clear who will be selected to take over the country until elections can be held in April.

Credit: Roberto Agn / Getty Images

On Sunday, legislators failed to approve Rocío Silva-Santisteban, a leftist human rights defender, as the next interim leader – even though he was the only name put forward for consideration.

The country’s fragmented and unpopular legislature will vote again on Monday when another name will be on the list: lawmaker Francisco Sagasti, a 76-year-old industrial engineer and former World Bank official.

Peru’s political upheaval adds to the uncertainty facing the country as it was already hit devastatingly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many fear that the ongoing crisis will lead to the worst economic contraction the country has seen in more than a century.

The political crisis started just last week when the elected president was impeached and removed from office.

It was just last week that the nation’s elected leader – ex-President Martín Vizcarra – was impeached and removed from office by Congress over allegations of corruption.

Since taking office in March 2018, Vizcarra was embroiled in a bitter battle with Congress, which is made up of rival parties. During his presidency, he worked to combat corruption throughout the country’s legislature. Half of the lawmakers are under investigation or indictment for alleged crimes including money laundering and homicide.

And as president, he enjoyed support among the public and voters but it was ultimately the allegations of bribery that brought him down. He has denied allegations that he accepted bribes worth 2.3 million soles ($640,000) when he was governor of the southern Moquegua region.

The former president has asked the country’s highest court to weigh in. “It can’t be that the institution that got us into this political crisis, that has for five days paralyzed Peru, with deaths, is going to give us a solution, choosing the person who they best see fit,” Vizcarra said, according to The Associated Press.

The country was just emerging from what seemed the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

Many are concerned about the country’s short and long-term future, as a growing political and constitutional crisis seems likely. At the beginning of the pandemic, Peru imposed one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns in Latin America to stop the spread of coronavirus – but has still seen cases rise rapidly.

It has so far reported nearly 935,000 infections and more than 35,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University – making it the country with the third highest rate of deaths per 100,000 people in the world.

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Peruvian Woman Wins Battle Over Right To Die Request

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Peruvian Woman Wins Battle Over Right To Die Request

ANGELA PONCE/ Getty Images

No doubt about it, women have struggled more than anyone to convince the world that the right to make decisions about their bodies is theirs. Ana Estrada, a woman currently confined to her bed, knows this truth. After spending five years of attempting to convince Peruvian officials that she has what’s best for herself in mind, she has finally made a breakthrough.

Recently, Estrada was able to convince Peruvian officials to make a historic decision, regarding her own assisted death.

Euthanasia is largely illegal in the Roman Catholic country of Peru, but Estrada has been granted an exception.

Psychologist Ana Estrada, who has suffered from incurable and progressive polio since the age of 12, poses for pictures at her house in Lima, on February 15, 2020. – A Peruvian court on February 25, 2021 ordered the government to respect the wishes of Estrada to be allowed to die, a rare allowance for euthanasia in largely Catholic Latin America. (Photo by Angela PONCE / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA PONCE/AFP via Getty Images)

Euthanasia is a practice that is illegal in many countries across the globe including Peru where access to abortion and same-sex marriage are also banned. Still, Estrada made a decision for herself to commit to a five-year legal battle after she decided to end her own life “when the time comes.”

Recently, Peru’s government ruled not to appeal a court ruling which recognized her right to “a dignified death.”

“It is an individual case, but I hope it serves as a precedent,” Estrada, 44, explained to Reuters in a recent interview. “I think it is an achievement not only of mine, not only of my cause but also an achievement of law and justice in Peru.”

Estrada, who is a psychologist, has lived with the rare disease called polymyositis for three decades.

The painful disease progressively attacks her muscles and has resulted in her need to breathe with a respirator most of the time. According to NBC, a court ruling from last week granted that state health insurer EsSalud to provide “all conditions” needed for Estrada’s euthanasia. The court also ruled that the event must occur within 10 business days of the date that she decides to end her life. According to NBC, “EsSalud said a statement it would comply with the ruling and form medical commissions to develop a protocol for such cases. The court ruling also cleared anyone assisting Estrada in her death from facing charges, although local law still prohibits anyone from helping people to die.”

Estrada is the author of the blog “Ana seeks dignified death” which she began writing in 2016. In an interview with Reuters, she explained that she made the decision to end her life when she realized she was no longer able to write.

“My body is failing, but my mind and my spirit are happy,” she explained. “I want the last moment of my life to continue like this, in freedom, with peace, tranquility, and autonomy. I want to be remembered like that.”

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He Was The Mastermind Behind Peru’s Forced Sterilization Of Indigenous Women And He’s Finally On Trial

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He Was The Mastermind Behind Peru’s Forced Sterilization Of Indigenous Women And He’s Finally On Trial

ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images

Prosecutors in Peru are working hard to seek justice for the tens of thousands of Indigenous women who were forced to undergo surgical sterilizations in the 1990s, during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori.

As part of their work, prosecutors have asked that a judge permit the trial against the former president to move forward and just this week they were granted that request. The 82-year-old former president, who is already serving a 25-year prison sentence for other human rights abuses and corruption, says he shouldn’t be charged in the case because of a technicality.

Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori will stand trial for his campaign to sterilize Indigenous women.

A judge in Peru opened proceedings on Monday against disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori and other officials accused of the “forced sterilizations” of thousands of poor, mostly Indigenous, women.

The judicial process led by Judge Rafael Martínez began following years of demands by human rights activists as well as numerous obstacles, including prosecutors who shelved investigations of Fujimori in the past.

He and his five fellow defendants are accused of being “indirect perpetrators of damage to life and health, serious injuries and serious human rights abuses” against women who were surgically sterilized between 1996 and 2000.

Fujimori and his fellow defendants, including three ex-health ministers, “did a lot of harm with their policies,” said public prosecutor Pablo Espinoza as he read out the charges against the 82-year-old former president. Espinoza said the accused “played with the lives and reproductive health of people, without caring about the damage” it would do to them.

Thousands of Indigenous women underwent forced sterilizations as part of a campaign to lower their birth rate.

During the 1990s, an estimated 270,000 Peruvians were subjected to surgery to have their fallopian tubes tied as part of a family planning program instigated during Fujimori’s final four years in power. Most of the victims were indigenous people including a woman who was 19 when in 1997 she took her baby to a clinic to be vaccinated, only to be tied up by soldiers.

Another woman died in March 1998 after she was subjected to the procedure.

As president, Fujimori announced at a congress in China in 1995 that his government would undertake a program to help poor Peruvian women decide the number of children they wanted to have. Later, there were growing complaints from women in poor communities in the Andes who said they had been sterilized without their knowledge.

Officials of Fujimori’s government claimed any excesses were the fault of overzealous local medical authorities. But the program was so controversial that the U.S. Congress cut aid payments to Peru that had been used to fund the program.

If the defendants are found guilty, the state could be liable for damages as Peru has recognized the right of victims of forced sterilization to receive reparations from the government.

The former president is already serving prison time for other crimes committed while in office.

Fujimori was arrested, tried, and convicted for a number of crimes related to corruption and human rights abuses that occurred during his government. Fujimori was president from 1990 to 2000. His presidency ended when he fled the country in the midst of a scandal involving corruption and human rights violations.

He was living in a self-imposed exile until his arrest while visiting Chile in November 2005. He was extradited to face criminal charges in Peru in September 2007 and has been in custody ever since. Though in December 2017, the country’s then President Pedro Kuczynski pardoned him on health grounds, however, that decision was overturned by the Peruvian Supreme Court in October 2018.

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