Posted on January 11, 2005

Revolt Baffles Unstable Peru

Jude Webber, Reuters, January 11, 2005

Blood spewing from his mouth pools on the step. His woolly hat is soaked in blood. But still, the former soldier weakly manages a V-sign.

It is a haunting image, captured in a news photograph, from a bizarre four-day uprising over New Year in Peru by some 200 nationalist paramilitaries demanding the resignation of unpopular President Alejandro Toledo. The revolt cost at least six lives and achieved nothing.

Retired Maj. Antauro Humala’s rebellion has baffled Peruvians. It may have been doomed from the start. But it signalled how sporadic uprisings in this Andean nation can quickly fill in a vacuum left by the politically-weak Toledo, whose approval ratings languish in single digits.

“We cannot ignore the political responsibilities of this incident and that the government was unable to see it coming. . . The country is waiting for a change of leadership,” Peru’s leading newspaper El Comercio said in a Wednesday editorial.

Toledo has already been forced over the last year to send security forces to Andean villages to protect unpopular officials accused of corruption from lynchings by an angry populace.

Humala, who was arrested along with his supporters after four policemen were killed, had been cooking up his political ambitions since joining his brother in a brief and failed rebellion against President Alberto Fujimori in 2000.


But Humala’s group — inspired by the ancient Inca civilization, a 19th century resistance hero of Peru’s war with Chile and a general who staged a coup in 1968 — would have needed more public support.

Humala criticized a military reshuffle last month that sent his brother, a military attache in Seoul, into retirement. Was his action, days later, a coincidence?