The conspiracy theorists who whisper in Pedro Castillo’s ear | International

During the first hours of the curfew, a woman walks between a military fence in Lima, this Tuesday.
During the first hours of the curfew, a woman walks between a military fence in Lima, this Tuesday.Paolo Aquilar (EFE)

Access to Pedro Castillo has become a matter of state. Having the door open to the office of the president of Peru, sitting in the chair in front of his desk and explaining his vision of the country to the professor who taught children in the Andes is a privilege that whoever has it guards it and hides it jealously. for fear of being taken away. Ministers themselves often have trouble reaching him, and have gotten used to being left on seen and unanswered on WhatsApp. His decision not to let the citizens of Lima go out on the streets to try to stop the protests over price hikes has the signature of the people around him at the moment: authoritarian far-rightists, people prone to believing in conspiracies , a trait that fits with Castillo’s personality.

This has not been the first time that Castillo thought of applying the state of emergency. In November of last year, according to a source told EL PAÍS in a report, Castillo wanted to carry it out. The opposition had called a march in the capital to promote his dismissal. He told his trusted people that he had informers in the province and that many buses were coming, that it was going to be a gigantic demonstration. “How are we going to get the military out on the streets? This is not Central America”, questioned his number two at that time, Mirtha Vásquez, a serene and sensible politician. Other ministers, however, thought it was a good idea. Hours later, the president withdrew from the plan. The march was the size of a meeting of friends, it had hardly any impact. “Do you see President? It was nothing ”, they wrote to him by chat.

Now he has pressed that button, surrounded by a different environment. About 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, he left it without effect, but Peru has not yet recovered from the shock. This says a newspaper editorial Trade: “It is an outrage against the rule of law and individual freedoms, and it is a clear attempt to hinder the right to protest that every citizen enjoys.” Such a decision by a president who, until recently, was the visible head of a teachers’ union that often organized demonstrations to claim their labor rights, is surprising. Now Castillo is on the other side. The attitude of his government regarding the protests of the last seven days has moved between two extremes, disdaining them or enlarging them. The Minister of the Interior, retired police officer Alfonso Chávarry, said on Sunday that law enforcement officials acted “wisely to avoid the social cost.”

At that point, a young man named Ervin Romero Corilloclla had already lost an eye and a teenager who was fleeing from police charges drowned in a river. He didn’t know how to swim. The boy’s father blames the agents for what happened. Another 18-year-old, Alexander Trujillo Nolasco, died in the afternoon from a police shot in the ear during protests by farmers and transporters in the Huánuco region.

Defense Minister José Gavidia, a retired Navy rear admiral, denounced for psychological violence by his wife, belongs to his group that now directly advises the president. He said Monday of the deaths: “There are four, there has been nothing else.” Something happened in the next 12 hours to go from minimizing the events to declaring a state of emergency. And maybe it has to do with the rumours. On Monday, in Lima, videos and photos of buses set on fire or violated by vandals, and rumors of looting circulated on WhatsApp and Twitter. A video of an assault on a supermarket in another region was even broadcast as if it were from Lima. The classist and racist elite believed it immediately. A congressman, Jorge Montoya, confirmed this rumor and assured that there was intelligence information that the people who live in the hills, the poorest part of the city, would come down to the capital to loot.

A protest against the Government of Pedro Castillo, in Lima, this Tuesday.
A protest against the Government of Pedro Castillo, in Lima, this Tuesday. LIZ RATE (Reuters)

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The same idea had permeated the Palace. Now the atmosphere there is different after several political crises. In March, several officials lost weight in favor of the newcomers. Sources with knowledge of what is happening inside indicate that the new secretary general of the presidency, Jorge Ricardo Alva, denies hearings to people who request a meeting, unlike the previous ones in office. On the other hand, a new press officer is Cristina Boyd Jara, a communicator with intelligence training in the Navy, who had a YouTube channel where she talked about conspiracy and strategy. The official has recruited a well-known Fujimori operator for her team.

After the curfew ended, some protesters took to the streets. They provoked altercations in the center of Lima and attacked the headquarters of the judiciary. The schools suspended their classes for tomorrow for fear of new incidents. “This is not a repressive or dictatorial government,” the Minister of Culture, Alejandro Salas, came out to say.

In February, two ministers who resigned —former Prime Minister Vásquez and the head of the Interior, Avelino Guillén— denounced that the president almost did not deal with them, put them off, and paid more attention to his advisers, who were known as the shadow cabinet. The times that he received them, the two ministers explained, he agreed something with them, but later, when speaking with those plenipotentiary advisers, he changed his mind. “Castillo fills his mouth with the people, but he doesn’t do anything for him,” Guillén said when he left, slamming the door, in an interview.

The shadow cabinet has been relieved. A new adviser to the president is Henry Shimabukuro, a businessman close to the sons of Alberto Fujimori, who a few years ago commissioned him to do a job on his company’s land and did not pay him. Shimabukuro has been hired by the National Intelligence Directorate, but he is stationed at the Government Palace and for a couple of months he has been acting in practice as an adviser. Sources who were aware of the preparation of the message that Castillo read to inform about the prohibition to go out on the street, indicate that the text was written by Castillo, Shimabukuro, Boyd, and the secretary of the head of state. The conspiracy theorists have taken the Palace.

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