Peru’s political turmoil has anchoveta industry on edge

Published on
December 16, 2022
Protestors in Peru on 7 December, 2022.

On Thursday, 15 December, Peru’s government instituted a national state of emergency, responding to outbursts of violence from protesters unhappy over the 7 December ousting of the country’s left-leaning president, Pedro Castillo, and the swearing in of then-vice president Dina Boluarte as Peru’s new head of state.

Castillo was facing allegations of corruption, with an estimated 50 separate cases pending with Peru’s Public Ministry. In an attempt to avoid impeachment over those allegations, Castillo illegally moved to dissolve congress and rule by decree, and was subsequently arrested and jailed. Peru’s Supreme Court of Preparatory Investigation is evaluating a federal prosecutor's request for 18 months of preventive detention for Castillo and the former prime minister, Aníbal Torres. Castillo will remain jailed until that request is resolved, according to Reuters. Judge César San Martín said that if Castillo is found guilty of the crime of rebellion and conspiracy against the state, he would face a sentence of no less than 10 years.

Castillo’s supporters have taken to the streets, and a number of violent encounters took place between them and counter-protesters, particularly in the southern part of the country – Castillo’s base of support – resulting in at least 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Blockades were reported to have been placed along main roads and highways, and a number of vehicles, toll booths, and police stations were burned.

In response to the violence, some of Peru’s airports closed as a precautionary measure. There was a threat recorded against the Mantaro hydroelectric plant in the central southern Huancavelica department, which supplies power to 15 percent of the country. Peru’s National Transporters Union reported as much as 70 percent of cargo transport has been paralyzed, and that the cost of transportation will rise as a result.

Pablo Trapunsky, the CEO of anchoveta fishing and processing firm Pesquera Diamante, said while the violence is cause for concern, he believed the removal of Castillo was a net positive.

“We’re concerned of actual blockages of highways and roads in certain parts of the country, which may not allow supplies to be delivered on time for our plants to process. We’ll see how the situation develops,” he told SeafoodSource.

Fishing in the north-central zone’s anchovy fishery – a primary source of much of the world’s fishmeal and fish oil – has continued, Trapunsky said. In November 2022, the government established a total allowable catch (TAC) of up to 2.28 million metric tons (MT).

“The advance on the general quota is 36 percent, but fishing is mostly on the northern area, in a remote spot which forces the fleet to travel large distances,” he said.

Peru is now under a 30-day state of emergency, and the military has said it will seek to limit protests to regain public order and guarantee civilian safety, while also working to safeguard airports, hydroelectric plants, and other strategic infrastructure. Lima’s Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the protests in the departments of Apurimac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Huancavelica, Huánuco, Ica, La Libertad, Piura, and Puno are creating a daily economic loss of PEN 1.7 billion (USD 444 million, EUR 418 million).

In an attempt to appease protestors, the interim president, Boluarte, first announced that general elections – originally slated for July 2026 – might be advanced by two years to April 2024. She then proposed general elections could be brought forward to December 2023, but that Peru’s legal framework would not permit elections before that date, and that the move would need congressional approval.

Castillo, the ousted president, has called Boluarte a “usurper” in written letters and social media posts from prison.

“Dear great and patient Peruvian people: I, @PedroCastilloTe, the same person who all of you elected 16 months ago to serve as constitutional president of the Republic. I speak to you in the most difficult moment of my government, humiliated, incommunicado, mistreated, and kidnapped, but still shielded by your trust and struggle, with the majesty of the sovereign people, but also infused with the glorious spirit of our ancestors,” Castillo wrote in a series of four posts on Twitter. “I speak to you to reiterate that I am unconditionally faithful to the popular and constitutional mandate that I hold as President, and I WILL NOT RESIGN OR ABANDON MY HIGH AND SACRED FUNCTIONS. What was said recently by A USURPER is nothing more than the same snot and drool of the coup-happy right. Therefore, the people should not fall for their dirty game of new elections. Enough of abuse! Constituent Assembly now! Immediate freedom!”

Castillo also penned a letter to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, asking the organization to intercede on his behalf. And he has said Peru’s judges and prosecutors should be held responsible events that unfold across the country if he is not released and returned to the presidency.

Photo courtesy of J Erick Brazzan/Shutterstock

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