Commentary: Peruvian student worries about family in midst of government chaos

Protestors confront police during a rally against Merino’s new government after the removal of Vizcarra on Nov. 12. (Ernesto Benavides/AFP)

I was in the middle of a journalism class when my cell phone rang. When I saw the message, I had to apologize and leave the online meeting because I couldn’t believe what I read.

I did some research to confirm the news was true. When I saw the civil unrest taking place in Peru, my heart broke in a million pieces. 

Even though I moved to Fredericton in August 2019 and haven’t been back since, I was worried for my friends and family back home. 

I imagined the whole town taking to the streets to protest. Thousands of young people arrested and lives exposed to COVID-19. But worst of all, I could imagine my family, desperate and anxious, without knowing what to do, fearing what would happen to the future of their country

Within two weeks, Peru saw three different presidents.

Peru’s ousted president

On Nov. 9, the Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra was kicked out from his position after 105 out of 130 congressmen voted in favour of his vacancy under the argument of “permanent moral incapacity,” meaning he was not ready to be president.

These congressmen said the president’s behaviour was not the best. He could no longer continue to be in charge. But no one has defined what it means to be “morally incapable”

There were also some presumed beliefs alleging Vizcarra with corruption and dubious employment contracts of large sums of money with singer Richard Cisneros, who performs as “Richard Swing.” But they have not found any official evidence yet.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, when opposition member of parliament Edgar Alarcon presented Congress with audio recordings, it showed Vizcarra attempting to get his aides to cover up his meetings with Cisnero.

The alleged coup president

Regardless of not having proof, the vacancy was approved and Manuel Merino, who used to be the President of the Congress, was chosen as the President of the Republic. All of this happened during the peak of COVID-19 and five months before the next presidential elections.

The majority of Peruvians were against the vacancy because it seemed to be an irresponsible decision. They also had mixed feelings about the incoming government possibly acquiring power through a coup.

In response, protests across the country were held between Nov. 12 and Nov. 17. But, the most outstanding one was on Nov. 14 when a 22 and 24-year-old were killed by the violent police repression.

After their deaths, people started to share posts on social media using trending hashtags like Merino no me representa, Merino asesino and Gobierno golpista. Those translate to, “Merino does not represent me,” “Merino killer,” and “Coup government,” respectively.

On Nov. 15, Merino resigned from the presidency, leaving the country in greater political and economic instability.

New president accepted after being elected

Two days later, on Nov. 17, Francisco Sagasti was elected as the new president. This time, Peruvian people accepted it since he had not voted in favour of the vacancy nor did he have any judicial or criminal record.

It is really shocking that all of this happened in Peru. Now that I live in Fredericton, where the chances of something similar happening are unlikely, I can’t believe how a government is able to take advantage of its citizens.

It really makes me sad how some people can be so inconsiderate, especially if they are in important positions like politicians.

I was stressed and annoyed when I saw how the police beat young people who were only expressing their point of view. I was sad that I couldn’t be with my people in moments like this. I felt uncertainty and despair because I wasn’t able to do anything. Sometimes, I was so worried, I could not really focus on my assignments.

I was terrified for my family because they live in Peru. Everything that was happening affected them directly. Due to the low economy, my father had a lot of struggle with his work, so my mother and brother were also affected. They had to reduce their expenses and change their lifestyle. If they had to leave the house for any reason, such as work or shopping, they had to be careful because the streets were full of police and some roads were blocked due to the protests.

Now we just have to wait and see what will happen with the new president. 

Many non-Peruvians do not know Peru, much less how bad their politics are and the injustices they’ve had to experience.

I also hope the new Peruvian government becomes aware of all the damage that has been done to the population and that Peru can finally grow as a country with better laws and better leadership.