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Protests and rights in Peru: Why the "Third Takeover of Lima"?

Author: Antonio Alfonso Peña Jumpa [1]

On 19 July 2023, mass protests against the regime of the current president Dina Boluarte will resume in Peru. Why these new protests and why the particular name "Third Takeover of Lima"?

After more than 66 deaths in the protests that began on 7 December 2022, when the current president assumed power by presidential succession, appointed by the Congress of the Republic, hundreds of thousands of citizens from all over Peru are resuming their protests. These are peaceful demonstrations organised in the 26 regions of the country, led by social and ethnic organisations, but they are also mobilisations and marches that will inevitably affect economic activities and the free movement of people.

Among these protests, the so-called "Third Takeover of Lima" stands out as an expression of rejection of the concentration of power in the hands of those who currently govern from the Executive (Central Government) and Legislative (Congress of the Republic) branches of government. It is a rejection of the CENTRALIST exercise of power in Peru. But why the "Third Takeover of Lima?

The expression "Third Takeover of Lima" is a continuation of two previous "Tomas" (Takings) or mobilisations: 1) that which began in January 2023, after the first protests against the regime of Mrs. Dina Boluarte and her Prime Minister Alberto Otárola, mobilising people from the regions towards Lima, and 2) that which followed in February and March 2023, when, after the deaths of people protesting, new citizens from the regions mobilised towards the capital. In these two "Tomas de Lima" (Takings of Lima), the populations of the Southern Andes, in particular the Aymara ethnic organisations, were the main protagonists, showing the greatest resistance, with, unfortunately, tens of deaths.

Are these new protests in Peru legitimate? Legally and socially they are legitimate. Protests are an expression of the freedom of assembly, opinion, participation and mobilisation of the people that the Political Constitution enshrines in its articles 1 and 2, which regulate the Fundamental Rights of the people. In the face of this, no administrative, legislative or judicial decision can set limits. They can only prevent damage to other fundamental rights of people who do not protest, such as freedom of movement, physical integrity, freedom of opinion, among others, when protests collide with them by becoming particularly violent.

But, why do protests turn violent? This does not depend on a legal category, but on a social one. Protests are peaceful in their nature, but they become violent because of the protesting population's own participation or the provocation of those who do not agree with the protests. In both cases, constitutionally only society as a whole can judge the protests, although particular acts of violence can be judged by the judiciary.

Given the precedents that have occurred since 7 December 2022, it is not difficult to affirm that the new protests will also be violent. In this case the answer is no longer legal or social, but political.

The political responsibility or irresponsibility of the current government:

The dozens of deaths that occurred after the previous protests are the political responsibility of the current government, led by Mrs. Dina Boluarte and her premier, Mr. Alberto Otárola. According to the Political Constitution, the leadership of the Forces of Order depends on them (article 118º, paragraph 14º, and 167º and following of the Political Constitution), and if these Forces of Order have been the cause of one of the deaths, the responsibility falls on the regime.

In these circumstances, preventing the events of the new protests also depends on the current regime. What effects occur politically will depend on them, even if individual responsibility is found to lie with certain individuals.

How to prevent and avoid further political irresponsibility? The simplest answer is dialogue. If the current government does not engage in dialogue, and is cloistered in the concept of power as a formal force, it weakens the country and affects society as a whole. An example of this is the high level of crime in the country: assaults, hired killings and organised gangs reproduce themselves because the state is weak and easy to corrupt, and the current government contributes to this.

If those protesting represent the majority of the country and demand that the current regime resign or leave political power, including the dismissal of the current members of the Congress of the Republic, it is legitimate to listen to them. There are many solutions to this, one of them being a transitional government.

If neither the executive nor the legislature wants to engage in dialogue and recognise the legitimacy of the protesters' demands, it is constitutionally incumbent on the judicial branch (the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor's Office) to intervene. Unfortunately, in previous protests, neither the Public Prosecutor's Office nor the judiciary have acted effectively. However, they could do so now, by defining the power of the people (article 45 of the Political Constitution of Peru).


In short, is it constitutionally possible to prevent violence in Peru after the protests and after the "Third Takeover of Lima" with its possible effects in terms of deaths? The current authorities of the Central Government and the Congress of the Republic have the immediate answer.

Lima, 17 July 2023

[1] Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and lecture at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Lawyer, Master in Social Sciences and PhD. in Laws.


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