Remembering the massacre of Juliaca

Photo: Max Nina. Source: CNDDHH. Photo: Max Nina. Source: CNDDHH.

The massacre that occurred in Juliaca is a fact that has defined authors (direct and mediate). But why is there no sanction or state response after the last year?

Remembering the massacre of Juliaca, in the region of Puno, Peru.

By Antonio Peña Jumpa*

January 15, 2024.- January 9, 2024 marked one year since the tragic events that took place in the city of Juliaca, in the South Andean region of Puno, Peru, when 18 people died, including 3 teenagers, during protests against the regime of Mrs. Dina Boluarte. The event took place around the airport in the city of Juliaca, after several acts of protests with deaths and injuries that began in the region of Apurimac and continued in the regions of Ayacucho, Cusco, Arequipa, Cajamarca, La Libertad, Ica, Lima, and then spread to other regions of the country. On that date, a strong protest took place, which produced a violent reaction from the forces of law and order, resulting in 18 deaths and hundreds of wounded.

The fact shows a situation of political violence that involves the government in power and that has no other denomination than that of massacre or collective homicide as some reports have referred to it.(1) This situation, in turn, is confirmed by the more than 60 deaths that occurred before and after 9 January 2023 in the nationwide protests.

In this article we will only describe the social actors and the consequences of their actions focused on what happened in Juliaca. As we will see, this description guides us through an initial identification of those responsible in a multicultural context.

The stakeholder groups:

The Juliaca massacre involved four main groups of social actors: 1) The thousands of Aymara, Quechua and mestizo citizens of the Puno region who were protesting against the recently installed government; 2) The Forces of Law and Order (National Police of Peru and the Armed Forces) in charge of safeguarding public order and, in particular, the international airport of Juliaca identified as a strategic place to fulfil that purpose; 3) The hundreds of thousands of people not directly involved with the protests but who supported them because they live nearby, move around the area or were relatives of those protesting; and 4) Mrs. Dina Boluarte, the newly proclaimed president of Peru after the vacancy of Mr. Pedro Castillo, and her ministers of state along with the congressmen and politicians who supported her measures.

The citizens who protested:

The thousands of citizens who had gathered, organised and agglutinated for days in the streets of important cities such as Puno and Juliaca, were not terrorists or political opportunists seeking to destabilise the state or the recently installed government. They were rather Aymara, Quechua and Mestizo citizens who make up the Puno region, with a different culture and conception of state and government. These thousands of citizens mobilised from their organisations or rural communities to the streets and the airport in the city of Juliaca, seeking to be heard in the face of the news of a change of government that did not convince them. They did not understand why Mr. Pedro Castillo had ceased to be president, and why he had been simultaneously dismissed and arrested after an alleged coup attempt. They did not understand why Ms. Dina Boluarte had accepted the presidency, confirming the vacancy and arrest of Mr. Pedro Castillo.

The law enforcement agencies involved:

The Forces of Order, on that date, included agents of the Peruvian National Police and the Armed Forces (Army, Air Force and Navy) stationed or on duty in the region of Puno and located in and around the Juliaca airport. A group of these agents were the ones who acted by repressing, beating and shooting at the people who were protesting, resulting in 18 deaths and hundreds of wounded. According to the images and news broadcast in the regional and national media, as well as the reports of international organisations (including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and the investigation carried out by State institutions such as the Public Prosecutor's Office, this group of the Forces of Law and Order appear to be the direct, material or executing authors of these events. However, there were other perpetrators by proxy.

Citizens who supported the protests:

The hundreds of thousands of citizens who were not part of the protests but who supported them because they live nearby, moved around or were relatives of those who were protesting constitute the people of the Puno region. Approximately 90% of the region's population coincides with these hundreds of thousands of people who, in different ways, contributed to the protests. Thus, shopkeepers, teachers, artists, students, businessmen, health personnel, workers, technical personnel and professionals in general from the city, together with their rural and semi-rural communities of Puno, were among these hundreds of thousands of people who did not agree with the new regime of Mrs. Dina Boluarte, and rejected the deaths that had occurred previously in other regions. This group of social actors is the one that financed and supported the long protest that would last for months in the region after the events of 9 January 2023.

The President of the Republic and her ministers:

Mrs. Dina Boluarte, the Peruvian president appointed after Mr. Pedro Castillo's vacancy, accompanied by her ministers and the politicians who advised and supported her at the time, appear as the group of indirect or mediated perpetrators of the massacre in Juliaca. Executive command corresponded to the ministers of state, in particular the interior and defence portfolios, but the final decision was made by the President of the Republic. Given the structure of the State regulated by the Political Constitution of Peru (CPP), these State actors coordinated through a Council of Ministers under the command of the President of the Republic to take public order measures (Articles 121, 122 and 125 of the CPP). Furthermore, the same Constitution regulates that the President directs the National Defence System (article 164 of the CPP).

In sum, all of these social actors show that the massacre in Juliaca is an event that has defined perpetrators (direct and indirect). But why has there been no sanction or state response after a year has passed? This is a question that has yet to be answered.

(written in Lima, between January 9 and 12, 2024).

Nota:

(1) See for example the report "Puno si es el Perú", at https://m.facebook.com/cnddhh/videos/puno-si-es-el-per%C3%BA/1107896190390490/?_rdr (accessed on 9-01-2024).

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*Antonio Peña Jumpa is a professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Lawyer, Master in Social Sciences and PhD in Laws.

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