Lourdes Huanca, Peruvian activist: "President Boluarte has deaths behind her" | International

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Lourdes Huanca Atencio is very worried. “What has happened these days in Peru is very sad; there is State terrorism, you cannot live in peace”, denounces this 53-year-old woman, originally from the south of the country. "My family is from Puno, we are Aymara: we are patient, but until the glass bursts." And these days, with a bloody protest harshly repressed by the Government with more than fifty deaths, it seems that it has been fulfilled. Huanca, president of the National Federation of Peasant, Artisan, Indigenous, Native and Salaried Women of Peru (FENMUCARINAP), has traveled to Madrid, after passing through Brussels and Paris and before continuing on to Barcelona and Geneva, to denounce "the savagery” that occurs in Peru: “Unfortunately, President Dina Boluarte has a lot of blood on her hands. There are already 55 deaths, seven of them minors... seven! Dina and her team accumulate more deaths than days of government ”.

Boluarte has been in office for a month and a half, almost as long as a social revolt has been going on that broke out shortly after the arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, on December 7, accused of attempting to carry out a self-coup. “That day, the president read a piece of paper and he did it trembling,” says Huanca, “only God knows if he was threatened or kidnapped.” "For us, Castillo is innocent and all this has been prepared to bring him down." The reasons that he believes prompted Castillo's dismissal are summed up in one idea: "Protect the powerful."

In Peru there are three very different areas, not only geographically, but also with respect to their economic development: the wealthy coast, the impoverished mountains and the wild jungle. In this ecosystem, social discontent has spread from the south of the country; specifically from the mountain area. “The protesters are not from the capital, but come from the corners of the territory; of the original indigenous peoples, who have been abandoned and excluded century after century. My 85-year-old father told me: '[Castillo] He is defending me because I am a farmer.' It is for that reason that [a las protestas] the east, the north and the center are added”. “President Castillo, in the year and six months that he has been ruling, they have harassed and attacked him. However, in that time, he has been a dialoguing president, he has made the citizens participate, he has opened the presidential palace to the people... How many times has he wanted to solve, but they have not let him govern?

Throughout Peru the informal economy has a large presence. 70% of workers in urban areas worked in some informal job in 2022, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Peru, but this ratio rises to 86% in the case of young people and is even more intensified in rural areas ( where it affects nine out of ten workers). In addition, in the rural south of the country, illegal mining exploitations dominate, as well as old concessions covered by corruption; smuggling, as well as a powerful mafia dedicated to transport companies. "And, precisely, in 2023 some mining and energy concessions are reviewed," says the indigenous leader. “The president said that all companies that owe taxes to our country have to pay. And we are talking about all of them, including Telefónica, which owes a lot of money," he says, referring to the sentence that the operator has just received in Peru and which forces it to pay nearly 800 million euros in taxes ―the largest sanction of its history― for the tax returns of 2000 and 2001. “The big companies have seen that they were going to have to pay what they owe and they have said: 'Wow!' They are scoundrels. We, the ordinary people, when we open a little store, if you don't pay the taxes, they close you down”, she assures.

This woman, "feminist, peasant and popular", believes that among those who criticize, censor and crush the protests there is a racist residue. For Huanca, this "fatal exclusion" is also part of the basis of the demonstrations. “I have seen women, sisters, with nothing to eat but crushed flour. To peasant women whose crops have been devastated by climate change. We cannot stand still, resigned”. She also believes that Castillo has suffered attacks similar to those that are now falling on the protesters: “The president was from the province, a peasant, a farmer, a rural teacher…. We are moving because voting for Pedro Castillo made us feel fulfilled, identified, and represented”. "In Peru there is fatal racism and discrimination," she stresses. “They see us and think: 'What are these cholos doing here, go to their provinces.'

Who are they? “They are the worst right; those who are organizing to kill us; those who have declared a state of emergency and released the police to shoot us; those who call us terrorists... We are only Peruvians, don't we have the right to ask for a dignified life? That our children also have a good education? That we improve communication, trails and highways? The Government has only had eyes for companies and the powerful and has excluded indigenous peoples, which is why we now feel up to the fight”.

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How can you calm down? "There will be calm when Dina Boluarte is dismissed." He also defends the formation of a transitory commission that will lead a constituent assembly: "This way the norms will not be only written by the elite, as has happened up to now." Huanca believes that this can provide a breather, "but it will be difficult to regain the trust of the original indigenous peoples." “They are going to kill thousands of us. But they won't kill us all. And, even if they kill us, we are like the wasteland, friend; that wasteland that burns and burns, but in the spring it begins to sprout beautiful and with good thorns. That's us. Our children will continue to fight. Because we are children of our grandmothers and grandfathers, who also fought. Maybe I get to Peru and they kill me. Let them dare: the blood that is spilled is not forgotten”.

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