Democracy vs. repression — Guess what Ottawa supports in Peru?

By Yves Engler, July 30, 2023

Last week tens of thousands took to the streets of Lima. Thousands traveled from across the country to Peru’s capital toparticipate in the Third Takeover of Lima since elected president Pedro Castillo was overthrown in December. The protesters are calling for the removal of deeply unpopular usurper president Dina Boluarte.

Eight months since Castillo’s ouster demonstrations continue despite significant state violence. About 70 have been killed and Castillo remains in prison. Two months ago Amnesty International released “Lethal racism: Extrajudicial executions and unlawful use of force by Peru’s security forces”, which documents the post-coup repression. “The grave human rights crisis facing Peru has been fueled by stigmatisation, criminalisation and racism against Indigenous peoples and campesino communities who today take to the streets exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and in response have been violently punished,” noted Amnesty.

As part of this effort Amnesty Canada and Québec put out a statement saying, “Canada must stop arms exports to Peru amid deadly repression of protests”. Despite the call receiving some media attention, the government has ignored it.

As I’ve detailed, Ottawa worked hard to consolidate the usurper government in the two months after Castillo was ousted. Canada’s foreign minister and the ambassador met with the new president as well as foreign, commerce, vulnerable population, production and mining ministers.

The extraordinary pace of diplomatic outreach has slowed as the regime has stabilized its position. But there is still significant diplomatic outreach with a government that has little constitutional or popular legitimacy.

Last month foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly met her Peruvian counterpart Ana Gervasi on the sidelines of the Organization of American States summit and ambassador Louis Marcotte met the vulnerable populations minister Nancy Tolentino. Two months ago Global Affairs’ Canadá en Perú Twitter account posted a photo of Marcotte and members of the country’s electoral council with the message, “We salute the efforts of the electoral institutions of Peru and their commitment to democracy. The independence of powers is key to building democratic and just societies.”

Hundreds of US troops are arriving in Peru. The country’s stunningly unpopular Congress, which impeached Castillo, approved a resolution allowing the foreign forces to stay until the end of the year. Alongside US troops, a contingent of the Royal Canadian Air Force joined a multinational exercise recently. Aside from the Canadá en Perú Twitter mentioning it (in Spanish) details of the Canadian deployment to Peru are scarce but it appears to have bolstered a military force that recently killed anti-coup protesters.

Canadian forces have previously been dispatched to Peru to assist undemocratic military measures. When the leftist Túpac Amaru guerrilla group took dozens of foreign diplomats hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima in 1996 to protest Fujimori neoliberal policies, Canadian JTF-2 special forces reportedly participated in the US-led rescue effort that left all 14 guerrillas dead, many of them reportedly executed. Four years earlier Canada refused to condemn President Alberto Fujimori’s coup against Peru’s elected congress, sometimes dubbed the “autogolpe” or “self-coup”. The coup was a way for Fujimori to push through neoliberal economic reforms and empower the military, police and National Intelligence Service.

Support for Dina Boluarte’s usurper regime today reflects Ottawa’s long-standing hostility to social democratic reforms and more independent minded governments in the region. Canadian officials are particularly concerned about resource nationalism and the possibility of the reversal of mining liberalization. Since Fujimori opened huge areas of Peruvian natural resources to foreign companies Canadian mining investment has grown from almost nothing to nearly $10 billion.

Alongside concerns over resource nationalism, Canadian policy is influenced by Washington’s increasing focus on resource competition with China. That country is Peru’s biggest trade partner and the US is seeking greater control over the minerals required for new technologies.

As Peruvians continue to demand new elections and the removal of the unelected president Ottawa once again demonstrates it cares little about democracy.

Posted August 7, 2023