Proclaiming that "change is coming," Pedro Castillo, a left-populist political outsider and former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru's new president on July 28—the bicentennial of the country's independence from Spain. The following day, a second symbolic inauguration ceremony was held at the Battlefield of Ayacucho, site of the 1824 battle that secured Peru's independence and put an end of Spanish colonialism in South America. (TeleSur, Reuters)
The Fiscalía of Peru, the country's top prosecutor, has opened an investigation into Vladimiro Montesinos, the imprisoned former intelligence chief under dictator Alberto Fujimori, following release of a recording in which he evidently urges electoral authorities to throw the pending presidential election to Keiko Fujimori—daughter of the ex-dictator. The so-called "Vladiaudios" were released by Pedro Rejas, a retired military officer and Fujimori loyalist who received the phone call from Montesinos on June 23. In the call they appear to discuss bribing members of the National Jury of Elections (JNE). Also under investigation is Luis Arce Córdova, a JNE member who on the same day as the phone call was forced to step down for conflict of interest in response statements in favor of candidate Fujimori. (Aristegui Noticias, IDL-Reporteros, The Guardian, TeleSur)
So-called "dissident" FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced in early May that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers on April 23 during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. On May 31, Venezuela's National Bolivarian Armed Forces announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But the independent Caracas Chronicles reports that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombian guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana.
Colombia's ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing an end to the country's long internal war, publicly apologized June 11 for his role in the practice of "false positives"—extrajudicial executions by the armed forces, in which the victims were reported as guerillas slain in combat. The apology came in testimony before Colombia's Truth Commission, created under the peace process that Santos himself initiated. Santos admitted that most of the "false positives" took place when he served as defense minister under the hardline president Álvaro Uribe, and that he initially turned a blind eye to the practice.
One week after Peru's close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, more than enough to throw the race in her favor. On June 11, the JNE said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which had passed two days earlier. However, it reversed this decision hours later, in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted "coup d'etat." (Peru21, June 12; DW, June 11; BBC Mundo, June 10)
Colombian President Iván Duque on May 28 announced the deployment of military forces to put down the protests that have been rocking the country since a national strike was called a month ago. Speaking from violence-torn Cali as some 1,400 soldiers arrived in the city, he said army troops would focus on "nerve centers where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism." An additional 7,000 troops were sent to break up roadblocks in the local department of Valle del Cauca. "Islands of anarchy cannot exist," Duque declared.
Under the slogans "Fujimori nunca más" and "Keiko No Va," many thousands of Peruvians filled the streets of Lima and cities across the country May 22 to repudiate the presidential candidacy of Keiko Fujimori, contender of the far-right Fuerza Popular party and daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori. The lead contingent in the rally that filled downtown Lima's Plaza San Martín was composed of survivors of the reign of terror during the 1992-2000 Fujimori dictatorship.
Colombian President Iván Duque flew to Cali in the middle of the night after street clashes in the southwestern city left several indigenous protesters injured May 9. Amid a national strike sparked by Duque's proposed burdensome tax reform, some 5,000 indigenous activists from the nearby administrative department of Cauca had been holding a "Minga," or protest gathering, on the outskirts of Cali, when unknown gunmen in civilian dress arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire. The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reported that at least 10 activists were wounded, and that the gunmen were intermingled and cooperating with uniformed police. It remains unclear if they were plainclothes agents or vigilantes.