Lima. Peru. The abrupt replacement of president Martin Vizcarra by the president of congress Manuel Merino has ignited a week of protests in multiple cities in Peru, including Lima. Peruvians are outraged at what can best be described as a parliamentary coup, orchestrated by members of congress whose quick resignation only came after two young protesters lost their lives at the hands of police. As Peru descends into a state of limbo, with the resignation of Merino, the youth on the streets relentlessly call for a complete overhaul of the Peruvian constitution.
Originally published by Black Rose Anarchist Federation. Written by Mariella Mendoza.
I spoke with political street artist Buhho (Warning Facebook Link), who’s part of the local printmaking movement in Lima, and who has been organizing multiple interventions through art and action.
The coup d’etat in Peru started a series of protests on the streets of multiple different districts in Peru, including the streets of Lima. Can you describe the beginning of this movement, and its roots?
Everything began when the Peruvian government began the ousting of Vizcarra (the previous president). We (the youth on the streets) noticed that Merino and Alarcon, both members of congress, were going to oust the presidency, by any means necessary. They were successful, and Merino, who was president of congress, stepped in as president of Peru. These people represent an outdated obsolete political class who, united with corrupt people that are only interested in their own selfish gain, continues to hoard wealth (and resources).
At that point the protests began and they did not stop. On that day, November 9th there was a protest at Plaza San Martín, which is where we usually get together to march, and the mobilizations kept escalating, on November there was a call for a national march, and it was one of the biggest mass mobilizations in the history of Peru. Today there was a call for another mass mobilization, for which myself and others are getting ready for right now.
Tell us about the right to insurgency. What is article 46?
This is an article in the Peruvian constitution that first appeared in ‘79, and has been adapted by a constitutional assembly. The article reads: Article 46- Usurper Government. Insurgency right. No one owes obedience to a usurping government, nor to those who assume public functions in violation of the Constitution and the laws. Residents have the right to insurgency in defense of the constitutional order. All acts by usurpers are null. And it’s this article that we’ve been using to legitimize the protests, since the way that Merino was able to obtain power was through constitutional gaps and speculation of corruption by the ex president (Vizcarra), which is all still under investigation.
This year, the influence of the pandemic has affected multiple different communities across the world. How has covid-19 impacted Peru, and how has it affected the protests and the perspective of the people towards the government?
Peru was one of the first countries to declare a national quarantine and to close its borders, as soon as the virus got to America. But ironically, we have been one of the countries most heavily affected. One of the ways covid-19 has affected us directly, is it showed us the social divides that exist in our country. The rich have a lot and they are few, the poor have little, and they are many.The economical model and the improvised authorities and institutions that we have made it so in just a little bit of time we became one of the countries with the highest rate of infection. And this happened as there was a change in the judicial institutions, and during a huge moment of corruption here, the Odebretch case.
“The rich have a lot and they are few, the poor have little, and they are many.”
To summarize Odebretch was a construction conglomerate that orchestrated multiple bribes to obtain contracts to public property. This case involved multiple politicians all the way back from 2000 until today. When they came to arrest Alan Garcia, whose term as president of Peru was one of the worst of the 20th century, he killed himself. When the pandemic started, the case was left to the side, as everyone focused on fighting the virus, but this is especially true now since Merino is only interested in pushing forward laws that benefit him and those he is in business with. Additionally, they are using the virus to criminalize the protests and to blame the youth for an inevitable rise in covid cases.
Buhho, your art is phenomenal and shows a lot of political influence, particularly punk. Can you talk to us a little bit about the role of art, the artist collectives, graffiti, and insurgence on the streets of Lima right now?
Thank you! And yes I try to include in my art a lot of the conditions that affect me directly: politics, social movements, and graffiti. When I was younger and found myself a part of the punk movement in Lima I met a lot of bands and collectives and read zines that showed a different perspective than the mainstream media offers here in Peru. I hadn’t yet chosen art as a career, nor as a means to spread autonomy. It was when I started studying at San Marcos that I found myself surrounded in rebellion and art, which nourished my own sense of style as well as my ideas. Working in museums I found out about Alfredo Marquez, who is my friend and someone I refer to a lot when talking about political Peruvian art.
Art, in that sense, and in all its spectrums, is a way to communicate, and goes big on protest. There are not many local artists who have remained indifferent to what’s happening in our streets, and most have decided to take action through their work. Everyone is making posters, taking the streets, spreading knowledge. Graffiti isn’t different in that sense, a few days ago a huge mural was made in front of the national stadium, calling for insurgence. There’s bombs, drops, stencils, tags all appearing all at once, denouncing Merino.
Why now? What is bringing together youth across different social backgrounds and conditions in this moment?
Similarly to the Pulpinazo, which was our largest street mobilization until now, our goal is unchanged: to reject the way these political gangs seek to fill their pockets while draining the blood of our homeland, to reject the way they use “democracy” at their own leisure and convenience. We’ve been through some difficult moments in this pandemic, and we are indignant to see these politicians who couldn’t care any less about us. On the November 12th mobilization, everyone came out, adults, youth, children, students, soccer fans, artists, musicians, religious people, etc. It doesn’t matter what race or ideology you are, we are all united against corruption and will not stop until we are able to build a country where we are able to have justice and equality.
What are Ternas?
Ternas are a faction within the Peruvian police, they are undercover cops, dressed as protesters. This faction was created to prevent robbery and kidnappings, but then started infiltrating mass mobilizations. They go to the marches and act like civilians, but often turn out to be the ones instigating violence, so that the police will have an excuse to throw gas and bombs at the protesters, as well as detaining people. Protest is a human right, and it’s unacceptable that the police use infiltration as a means to achieve their goals.
During this uprising, what words can you offer us from afar? How can we support, what pages should we follow, etc
Right now, the best way to support is to spread information that comes directly from those on the frontlines. Show the world what is happening to us, tell them about our fight. There are a lot of comrades sharing about the brutality of state repression and police brutality, but also of our art, and of our demands of this usurper government. Financially there are groups helping protesters hurt, like the Medical Brigade of Lima, local groups that support the frontlines and our wounded. I personally want to thank anyone interested in our situation, and in spreading the news of what’s happening in Peru, by whichever ways you can, wherever you are.
Just thank you for the opportunity to talk about what’s happening here in Peru, the art that is fueling our protests, and the siblinghood that is uniting our movements. Siempre adelante!
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