Peruvian Perils

This past Saturday, January 21, Peruvian police stormed San Marcos University amid the ongoing protests against Dina Boluarte’s presidency. These protests, causing over 50 deaths and hundreds of arrests and injuries, are a consequence of President Pedro Castillo’s removal from power. Castillo, who was impeached after he attempted to dissolve congress, represented Peru’s far-left Perú Libre party. Since Castillo’s arrest, his primarily indigenous and low-income voter base has taken to the streets, calling for Boluarte’s resignation. The Peruvian government, in response, has proclaimed a state of emergency and dispatched police to re-establish order.

Peru is no stranger to violence and unrest, spending much of the 1980s and 1990s engaged in a battle against the communist guerrilla group, the Shining Path. Now, Peru finds itself returning to a similar state of violence, and it is likely the situation will continue to spiral the longer Boluarte remains in power. Anti-government protests are particularly potent in Peru’s mineral-rich south, affecting an important investor: China.

China, which has invested $10.4 billion into Peru’s mining sector, has faced disruption due to the ongoing protests. The Las Bambas copper mine, owned by the Chinese group MMG, has suffered major setbacks after the mine was occupied by protestors. Castillo favored strong relations with China, choosing their embassy as his first visit, and Peru has been a member of the Belt and Road Initiative since April 2019. Chinese companies have invested billions in other industries as well, such as energy and infrastructure. Most notably, the China Yangtze Power Co., recently purchased an 83.6 percent stake in Peru’s largest power utility company, Luz del Sur. The ongoing protests are likely to aggravate China, and it is unlikely Boluarte will gain control over the country in the near future. 

Questions and Background

  • What are the short-term and long-term consequences of Peruvian instability in Latin America? 
  • How should the U.S. help stabilize Peru? 
  • How threatening are Chinese investments in Peru for U.S. national security? 
  • What should be U.S. policy toward Latin America? 

The Indispensable Industry: Mining’s Role in the Energy Transition and the Americas
Ryan Berg. CSIS. January 24, 2023.

Peru’s Democratic Dysfunction
Will Freedman. Foreign Affairs. January 20, 2023.

Peruvian Protesters March in Capital Against Government
Ryan Dube. The Wall Street Journal. January 20, 2023.

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