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Peru: Remembering the Juliaca massacre

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Peru: Remembering the Juliaca massacre

(Five, 15. January 2024, to serve).- January 9th marked the anniversary of the tragic events in the city of Juliaca in the southern Andean region of Puno: during the protests against the Dina Boluarte government in early 2023, 18 people died, including three teenagers. The incident occurred near the airport in the city of Juliaca. There had previously been several protests with deaths and injuries. These had started in the Apurímac region and continued in the Ayacucho, Cusco, Arequipa, Cajamarca, La Libertad, Ica and Lima regions and then spread to other regions of the country. On January 9th, there were violent protests that resulted in a violent response from law enforcement, resulting in 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The events are illustrative of the political violence involving the incumbent government and in some To report is only referred to as a massacre or mass murder. The extent of the violence is demonstrated by the more than 60 deaths that occurred in the nationwide protests before and after January 9, 2023. In this article we describe the social actors and the consequences of their actions, focusing on the events in Juliaca.

The social actors

The main protagonists of the Juliaca massacre were: 1. the thousands of Aymara, Quechua and mestizo citizens of the Puno region who were protesting against the newly installed government; 2. the law enforcement forces (National Police and Armed Forces) responsible for maintaining public order, in particular at Juliaca International Airport as a strategic location for the fulfillment of this purpose; 3. Hundreds of thousands of people who were not directly involved in the protests but supported them because they lived nearby, moved in the area or were related to the protesters; and 4. Dina Boluarte, after the impeachment of Pedro Castillo as the new President of Peru, with her ministers as well as congressmen and politicians who supported her measures.

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The protesting citizens

The thousands of citizens who had gathered for days on the streets of important cities such as Puno and Juliaca were not terrorists or political opportunists who wanted to weaken the state or the newly installed government. Rather, they were members of the Aymara and Quechua and Mestizos who make up the Puno region, with a different culture and a different understanding of the state and government. They mobilized from their organizations or rural communities to the streets and the airport of the city of Juliaca to make their voices heard in the face of a change in government that did not convince them. They did not understand why Pedro Castillo was no longer president and why he was simultaneously removed from office and arrested after an alleged coup. They did not understand why Dina Boluarte had assumed the presidency and thereby recognized the impeachment and arrest of Pedro Castillo.

The law enforcement officers

The law enforcement officers that day included employees of the Peruvian National Police and armed forces (army, air force and navy) stationed or deployed in the Puno region and in and around Juliaca airport. A group of these officers used reprisals, beatings and shooting against the protesters. 18 people died; Hundreds were injured. According to the images and news in the regional and national media, the reports of international organizations (including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and the investigations carried out by state institutions such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the group of law enforcement appears to be the direct perpetrators, the main perpetrators or perpetrators of these events. However, the indirect perpetrators were different.

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The citizens who supported the protests

The hundreds of thousands of citizens who did not take part in the protests but supported them because they lived nearby, were traveling in the area or were relatives of the protesters came from the population of the Puno region. These people, who have contributed to the protests in various ways, make up about 90 percent of the region’s population. Shopkeepers, teachers, artists, students, businessmen, health workers, workers, technical personnel and professionals in general from the city as well as from the rural and semi-rural communities of Puno were among those hundreds of thousands of people who did not agree with the new regime of Dina Boluarte and condemned the deaths that had previously occurred in other regions. It is this group of social actors who financed and supported the long protest that lasted for months in the region after the events of January 9, 2023.

The President and her ministers

Dina Boluarte, who was appointed president after the impeachment of Pedro Castillo, is believed to form, together with her ministers and the politicians who advised and supported her that day, the group of indirect or mediate perpetrators of the massacre in Juliaca. Executive power rested with the ministers, particularly in the interior and defense departments. However, the final decision was made by the President. Given the state structure regulated by the Peruvian Constitution, these state actors coordinated through a Council of Ministers led by the President to take regulatory measures (Articles 121, 122 and 125 of the Constitution). In addition, the constitution stipulates that the president heads the national defense system (Article 164).

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There were obviously (direct and indirect) perpetrators at work in the massacre in Juliaca. But why, after a year, are there still no sanctions or response from the state? This question remains unanswered.

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