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Cuba Takes Aim at Peru – Mary Anastasia O’Grady/WSJ

The goal is to replace democratic capitalism with authoritarian socialism.

Protesters block a road in Cusco, Peru, Jan. 26.
Protesters block a road in Cusco, Peru, Jan. 26.(Cris Bouroncle/AFP)

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Antigovernment mobs in Peru have been blocking highways, setting fires on agricultural land, destroying infrastructure and attacking police stations for more than a month. Organized gangs have made multiple attempts, sometimes simultaneously, to take over airports and halt railroads. Authorities had to close the important tourist destination of Machu Picchu last week.

It isn’t clear who is coordinating and financing the chaos. But the objective is unmistakable: to destroy democratic capitalism and replace it with authoritarian socialism. Freedom-loving Peruvians are in a fight for their lives.

This latest chapter in Peru’s long war against leftwing terrorism began with the Dec. 7 impeachment and removal of President Pedro Castillo for his attempt to dissolve Congress and seize the judiciary. He also tried to arrest the attorney general, who was investigating allegations of corruption against him.

For all the talk of dysfunctional politics, Peru’s semi-parliamentarian system, designed to check one-man rule, worked well. Neither the military nor the national police went along with Mr. Castillo’s power grab and he ended up in jail. Under the constitution, Vice President Dina Boluarte was immediately sworn in as president.

By law, President Boluarte is supposed to finish Mr. Castillo’s term, which runs until 2026. But in an effort to quell the violence she has promised to move up the next election to 2024. That’s not good enough for the extreme left. It wants her to resign immediately, close Congress and hold elections for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. The official death toll from what is essentially a terrorist response to Ms. Boluarte’s embrace of the rule-of-law now tops 50.

Activists accuse national police of using indiscriminate force. Those allegations should be investigated. But during hundreds of peaceful marches in Lima and the south of the country, there have been no clashes.

Police have, however, used force to defend life, liberty and property—and paid a price. A Puno policeman was burned alive. Fifty-seven policemen were injured in Ica when they tried to open a blocked thoroughfare. One was savagely beaten and is clinging to life.

A sick baby in Cusco died when the ambulance he was in was unable to reach the hospital. It was the third reported death of a minor blamed on closed roads. Fire trucks and fuel deliveries can’t get to their destinations.

The director of the Research Center of the Association of United Micro-and-Small Enterprises of Peru in Lima estimates that entrepreneurs are losing $15 million a day and that the economic paralysis will translate over the next three to four months into 100,000 fewer jobs. The executive director of the Association of Agriculture Producers Guild of Peru estimated last week that Peruvian agro-export businesses have lost more than $150 million.

Peruvians who are protesting are missing work, which implies that they are losing income. It would be interesting to know if they’re being compensated—or coerced. Some have been recruited under threats against families, farm animals and businesses.

Puno, where much of the violence is taking place, is one of Peru’s poorest departments. But it’s also one “that has progressed the most, in relative terms, in the last 15 years. Between 2007 and 2021, its per capita income grew 4% per year; in the rest of the country it grew 2.8%,” Peruvian economist Ivan Alonso explained in a Jan. 20 column in the Peruvian daily El Comercio. Access to electricity, water, roads and healthcare also increased significantly. Infant mortality in 2019 was down to 18 per 1,000 live births from 44 in 2010, Mr. Alonso wrote.

This is bad news for socialists who want to make Mr. Castillo’s lawful arrest a matter of race and class. Their hope is that the upheaval will disrupt Peru’s market-based economy and pull the country into Cuba’s orbit—along with Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Havana has been working for years to tee this up.

Cuban intelligence operative Carlos Rafael Zamora holds the rank of colonel in Havana’s military dictatorship. He and his wife have moved around the Americas for decades under diplomatic cover. In December 2021, six months after Mr. Castillo’s inauguration, Mr. Zamora was named Cuba’s ambassador to Peru. At that time, Enrique García, a former Cuban intelligence official who reported to Mr. Zamora in the 1980s in Ecuador and defected to the U.S. in 1989, warned of trouble. Speaking from experience, Mr. García predicted that under Mr. Zamora’s command the embassy would recruit agents and work with the pro-Cuban Castillo government to destabilize the democracy. A year later the country exploded.

Bolivia has declared President Boluarte illegitimate. Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a former terrorist, wants international intervention in Peru’s domestic affairs. Chile’s President Gabriel Boric, an arrogant ideologue whose economy has lost $50 billion in investment since the 2019 leftwing pandemonium that he championed, is heaping criticism on the Peruvian democracy. You connect the dots.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com


Mary Anastasia O’Grady is an Opinion Columnist, writes “The Americas,” a weekly column on politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada that appears every Monday in the Journal. Ms. O’Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She was appointed an editorial board member in November 2005. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Indianapolis­-based Liberty Fund. Energiesnet.com does not necessarily share these views.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), on January 29, 2022. All comments posted and published on EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld.

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