Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

How Stable is Peru’s Government After One Year?

Dina Boluarte in Peru. Dina Boluarte took office as president of Peru one year ago today, after the country’s Congress ousted her predecessor, Pedro Castillo

Today marks one year since Dina Boluarte became president of Peru following Congress’ ouster of her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, who unsuccessfully attempted to dissolve the legislature and rule by decree. After Boluarte took office, at least 40 demonstrators were killed amid a wave of violent protests. In recent weeks, Peru’s attorney general slapped Boluarte with a complaint over her government’s actions during the protests, and Boluarte’s approval rating dipped to just 8 percent. How likely is Boluarte to be ousted from office before her term ends? What has Boluarte accomplished since taking office a year ago? What must her government do in order to calm political tensions? 

Pedro Francke, former Peruvian finance minister: “Dina Boluarte co-governs with a Congress dominated by the right. This government has maintained an under-the-table pact with the attorney general’s office to cover up their responsibility for the 39 deaths from police and army bullets (according to Human Rights Watch). This government is increasingly leaning toward an authoritarian stance, with new laws to imprison those who protest the government and a pardon for Alberto Fujimori that goes against IACHR rulings. The economy has entered a recession, and poverty and unemployment are increasing, and there are no clear prospects for a quick recovery. Citizen insecurity is increasing, and the government has lost not only legitimacy but also the state capacity to control the territory. There is a broad rejection of both Boluarte and Congress, but their co-government maintains the support of the business oligarchy, which benefits from several tax exemptions and environmental deregulation. It is very difficult to predict whether Boluarte will be able to reach the end of her term in 2026. A new wave of protests is in the making, but people are fearful due to the government’s violent response a year ago, and there is a social fracture between Lima and the regions, especially the south where Boluarte’s disapproval ratings are greater. Opposition to the government also suffers from a lack of consensus regarding solutions to the crisis and a serious political fragmentation. We are in a governance crisis that demands new elections as soon as possible.”

Cynthia McClintock, professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University: “Not since the era of Alberto Fujimori has Peru’s democracy been in such dire straits. Since December 2022, Peruvians’ demand has been for new elections. Held amid the pandemic, the 2021 elections were very problematic; Castillo’s presidency was widely deemed accidental, and Boluarte’s rise to the presidency even more so. Ironically, Boluarte can most effectively gain popular support only by acceding to the demand for new presidential and congressional elections. However, Peru’s Congress has dug in its heels against new elections (largely because legislators are barred from re-election, so they would all lose their jobs). Until recently, Boluarte had achieved a measure of political calm by building alliances with legislators, including many who are allied with the rightist leader Keiko Fujimori and others whose interests appear exceptionally opportunistic. However, these alliances were built not only to block new elections but also against a second important demand: investigation of the grave human-rights violations that security forces committed during the intense protests after Castillo’s impeachment. Also to Peruvians’ dismay, legislators have tried to capture top electoral and judicial institutions—replacing professionals with accomplices. Now, however, these alliances are in peril. The constitutional complaint against Boluarte by Attorney General Patricia Benavides has provoked counter-accusations by Boluarte and other top officials in the attorney general’s office. However, Benavides appears tied with Fujimori and, accordingly, a showdown is very possible. It does not help that Peru’s economy is in recession and that citizen security is perceived to have worsened. Boluarte is at considerable risk of impeachment—more so than at any previous moment in her presidency; but, an impeachment without new congressional elections would likely ignite very severe protests.”

Julio F. Carrión, professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware: “Peru has earned a well-deserved reputation for unpredictability, so any forecast comes with a very short expiration date. That said, and given the recent past, it is less risky to predict that Dina Boluarte will not serve her full term. But how much longer will she stay? Until the recent decision of the Constitutional Court to free former President Alberto Fujimori, one would have predicted that Boluarte would last through all of 2024. Today, that forecast is less certain. Her decision to co-govern with Congress, and the articulation of an unexpected coalition in Congress that brought together fujimoristas, conservatives and some leftists, gave Boluarte a modicum of stability. She posed no threat to a majority that embarked on reshaping the country’s constitutional architecture to serve its own interests. And the president benefited from a Congress unwilling to investigate her for human rights abuses. Alberto Fujimori’s release could threaten this informal pact because it could trigger new protests, and it raises the political cost for the left-wing parties that decided to find accommodation with conservatives. Another source of instability emanates from the recent investigation against Attorney General Patricia Benavides. She is accused of offering impunity to several members of Congress in exchange for congressional actions against her opponents. The National Board of Justice is considering suspending her for obstructing the investigation, and members of Congress might retaliate against the board as a result. Peru is mired in yet another political and constitutional crisis that threatens not only the continuation of Boluarte but also its hard-won democracy.”

Rocío del Pilar Verástegui Ledesma, professor in the Department of Social Sciences and School of Government at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú: “One year after Pedro Castillo’s self-coup and Dina Boluarte’s assumption of Peru’s presidency, signs of the lack of institutional controls and checks and balances are evident when looking at the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Alliances come to light when political extremes coordinate to maintain power in institutions that should be exercising accountability to maintain the rule of law and protect citizens. This is in addition to attempts to neutralize accountability with laws against protesters. What seems to be happening is a new preamble to a transition. There is a risk of transitioning between democratic and authoritarian regimes, which shows the precariousness of Peru’s current democracy. The question we should be asking ourselves is what is the origin of this democratic precariousness, beyond the electoral situations and presidential successions. My hypothesis is there are cobwebs of corruption and economic interests in search of impunity and permanence in power, which have persisted despite the transitions to democracy in 2000 and 2020. The important thing today is that everything is coming to light and that citizens are not fooled and keep developing the country despite politicians’ actions.”

Eduardo Morón, principal professor at Universidad del Pacífico: “Everyone in Peru would love to see a steady calm on the political horizon, but that is not going to happen. We must acknowledge that governing without a minimum coalition in Congress is dangerous to democracy anywhere as it enhances political volatility and goes against an effective government. Boluarte’s administration will suffer until the end of her term from political turmoil, and we must accept that as the baseline scenario. Investment decisions will face higher uncertainty. And as far as the administration is not able to fill the economic and political agenda, Congress will do that. The incentives to stay together will last only until both have something to benefit from the other. Congress wants to seal at least the constitutional change bringing back the Senate. Boluarte wants to be at center stage in the November 2024 APEC Presidential Summit. Other than that, Boluarte’s best shot is to aim for long-term proposals. She should focus on issues that have a significant consensus across the political spectrum as they are citizen needs, such as improving primary health care. For that to happen, she needs cabinet members who can engineer those policies with long term goals but short-term gains that can showcase that there is an effective government, or, putting it more plainly, that she is doing her (unintended) job. Inflation is slowing down, and the economy will recover, maybe later than they wish. This will release some pressure on the social front, but there are many risks that can derail this scenario. The most expected is an imminent El Niño shock in the coming months.”

Latin America Advisor logo.The Latin America Advisor features Q&A from leaders in politics, economics, and finance every business day. It is available to members of the Dialogue’s Corporate Program and others by subscription.

Related Links

Suggested Content

Can Spain Solve the Cuba Problem?

By all accounts, Spain wants to bring change to the European Union’s Cuba policy. In so doing, it is tackling a foreign policy challenge that often sheds more heat than light.


Obama & the Haitian Earthquake

When Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama quickly absorbed the depth of the tragedy and necessity of a robust U.S. response. Unless the U.S. adopts a proactive role, Haiti’s fragmented political landscape threatens to deteriorate into a political vacuum that will compound the current crisis.