Curfew in Peru sparks backlash – and questions about presidential leadership: NPR

NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with Peruvian journalist Jacqueline Fowks about the country’s inflation protests and President Pedro Castillo’s reaction to them.



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Just before midnight on Monday, Peru’s President Pedro Castillo announced a 24-hour curfew in the capital Lima. The order was intended to quell nationwide protests that began over rising fuel, food and fertilizer prices, but the scope of the government’s response here has been a bit surprising. After widespread discontent, Castillo reversed his curfew order within a day, and the protests are still continuing.

For more, we’ll now see Jacqueline Fowks, who reports for El Pais newspaper in Peru. Welcome.

JACQUELINE FOWKS: Thank you.

CHANG: Can you tell us, Jacqueline, what the protests look like today?

FOWKS: Today is not as complicated as the previous days, but we certainly don’t know what will happen in the next few days because the most important requests are still there. There weren’t that many solutions. Today we are at – day 12 of protests in some cities, and on Saturday there will be another protest in Lima.

CHANG: Well, I’m curious. When President Castillo first imposed this curfew – which has now been repealed – how did people react to this response?

FOWKS: Well, it was only in Lima and in the main port of the country, in Callao, and a lot of people respected that, but a lot of people didn’t want to stay at home, so thousands of people who are looking of Castillo’s resignation went to downtown Lima to protest. Yesterday there was another rally that did not call for the resignation of the president. They were asking the President to keep their promises that he made when he was a candidate, and if he does not keep their campaign promises, then he must resign.

CHANG: These protests started because of rising fuel and food prices – those prices that have been rising for some time now and have been exacerbated in part by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Can you tell us how difficult this has made life for Peruvians – these rising prices?

FOWKS: Yes, I think it’s important to remember who supported Pedro Castillo’s victory. He won with the very important support of peasant farmers and motorists. In Peru, we have a very chaotic transport system, so there are thousands of drivers who work alone, and Pedro Castillo proposed to these very large groups that he was going to govern to live better. This has therefore worsened since August because of the rise in inflation…

CHANG: That’s right.

FOWKS: …And the situation worsened in the previous two months because of higher fertilizer prices.

CHANG: Well, does Castillo still have strong supporters? For example, how do they explain the failures of this administration so far?

FOWKS: No, I would say he has very strong supporters. These rallies which were held yesterday in several cities – they were organized by very important trade unions of peasants and workers. They’re the last supporters he has left, so they were like, remember we’re voting for you, so you have to fulfill what you promised.

CHANG: That’s right.

FOWKS: Otherwise, you’ll have to leave.

CHANG: This is Jacqueline Fowks. His report from Peru appears in the newspaper El Pais. Thank you very much for joining us today.

FOWKS: Thank you.

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Kevin E. Boling