November 17, 2020
From Black Rose Anarchist Federation (USA)

The abrupt replacement of president Martin Vizcarra by the president of congress Manuel Merino has ignited a week of protests in multiple cities in Peru, including Lima. Peruvians are outraged at what can best be described as a parliamentary coup, orchestrated by members of congress whose quick resignation only came after two young protesters lost their lives at the hands of police. As Peru descends into a state of limbo, with the resignation of Merino, the youth on the streets relentlessly call for a complete overhaul of the Peruvian constitution.

I spoke with political street artist Buhho, who’s part of the local printmaking movement in Lima, and who has been organizing multiple interventions through art and action.

by Mariella Mendoza

Nota: Español abajo.

Interview Questions:

The coup d’etat in Peru started a series of protests on the streets of multiple different districts in Peru, including the streets of Lima. Can you describe the beginning of this movement, and its roots?

Everything began when the Peruvian government began the ousting of Vizcarra (the previous president). We (the youth on the streets) noticed that Merino and Alarcon, both members of congress, were going to oust the presidency, by any means necessary. They were successful, and Merino, who was president of congress, stepped in as president of Peru. These people represent an outdated obsolete political class who, united with corrupt people that are only interested in their own selfish gain, continues to hoard wealth (and resources). 

At that point the protests began and they did not stop. On that day, November 9th there was a protest at Plaza San MartĂ­n, which is where we usually get together to march, and the mobilizations kept escalating, on November there was a call for a national march, and it was one of the biggest mass mobilizations in the history of Peru. Today there was a call for another mass mobilization, for which myself and others are getting ready for right now.

Tell us about the right to insurgency. What is article 46?

This is an article in the Peruvian constitution that first appeared in ‘79, and has been adapted by a constitutional assembly. The article reads: Article 46- Usurper Government. Insurgency right. No one owes obedience to a usurping government, nor to those who assume public functions in violation of the Constitution and the laws. Residents have the right to insurgency in defense of the constitutional order. All acts by usurpers are null. And it’s this article that we’ve been using to legitimize the protests, since the way that Merino was able to obtain power was through constitutional gaps and speculation of corruption by the ex president (Vizcarra), which is all still under investigation.

This year, the influence of the pandemic has affected multiple different communities across the world. How has covid-19 impacted Peru, and how has it affected the protests and the perspective of the people towards the government?

Peru was one of the first countries to declare a national quarantine and to close its borders, as soon as the virus got to America. But ironically, we have been one of the countries most heavily affected. One of the ways covid-19 has affected us directly, is it showed us the social divides that exist in our country. The rich have a lot and they are few, the poor have little, and they are many. The economical model and the improvised authorities and institutions that we have made it so in just a little bit of time we became one of the countries with the highest rate of infection. And this happened as there was a change in the judicial institutions, and during a huge moment of corruption here, the Odebretch case. 

To summarize Odebretch was a construction conglomerate that orchestrated multiple bribes to obtain contracts to public property. This case involved multiple politicians all the way back from 2000 until today. When they came to arrest Alan Garcia, whose term as president of Peru was one of the worst of the 20th century, he killed himself. When the pandemic started, the case was left to the side, as everyone focused on fighting the virus, but this is especially true now since Merino is only interested in pushing forward laws that benefit him and those he is in business with. Additionally, they are using the virus to criminalize the protests and to blame the youth for an inevitable rise in covid cases.

Buhho, your art is phenomenal and shows a lot of political influence, particularly punk. Can you talk to us a little bit about the role of art, the artist collectives, graffiti, and insurgence on the streets of Lima right now? 

Thank you! And yes I try to include in my art a lot of the conditions that affect me directly: politics, social movements, and graffiti. When I was younger and found myself a part of the punk movement in Lima I met a lot of bands and collectives and read zines that showed a different perspective than the mainstream media offers here in Peru. I hadn’t yet chosen art as a career, nor as a means to spread autonomy. It was when I started studying at San Marcos that I found myself surrounded in rebellion and art, which nourished my own sense of style as well as my ideas. Working in museums I found out about Alfredo Marquez, who is my friend and someone I refer to a lot when talking about political Peruvian art.

Art, in that sense, and in all its spectrums, is a way to communicate, and goes big on protest. There are not many local artists who have remained indifferent to what’s happening in our streets, and most have decided to take action through their work. Everyone is making posters, taking the streets, spreading knowledge. Graffiti isn’t different in that sense, a few days ago a huge mural was made in front of the national stadium, calling for insurgence. There’s bombs, drops, stencils, tags all appearing all at once, denouncing Merino.

Photo by Wilber Huacasi @whuacasi

Why now? What is bringing together youth across different social backgrounds and conditions in this moment?

Similarly to the Pulpinazo, which was our largest street mobilization until now, our goal is unchanged: to reject the way these political gangs seek to fill their pockets while draining the blood of our homeland, to reject the way they use “democracy” at their own leisure and convenience. We’ve been through some difficult moments in this pandemic, and we are indignant to see these politicians who couldn’t care any less about us. On the November 12th mobilization, everyone came out, adults, youth, children, students, soccer fans, artists, musicians, religious people, etc. It doesn’t matter what race or ideology you are, we are all united against corruption and will not stop until we are able to build a country where we are able to have justice and equality.

What are Ternas?

Ternas are a faction within the Peruvian police, they are undercover cops, dressed as protesters. This faction was created to prevent robbery and kidnappings, but then started infiltrating mass mobilizations. They go to the marches and act like civilians, but often turn out to be the ones instigating violence, so that the police will have an excuse to throw gas and bombs at the protesters, as well as detaining people. Protest is a human right, and it’s unacceptable that the police use infiltration as a means to achieve their goals.

During this uprising, what words can you offer us from afar? How can we support, what pages should we follow, etc

Right now, the best way to support is to spread information that comes directly from those on the frontlines. Show the world what is happening to us, tell them about our fight. There are a lot of comrades sharing about the brutality of state repression and police brutality, but also of our art, and of our demands of this usurper government. Financially there are groups helping protesters hurt, like the Medical Brigade of Lima, local groups that support the frontlines and our wounded. I personally want to thank anyone interested in our situation, and in spreading the news of what’s happening in Peru, by whichever ways you can, wherever you are.

Anything else?

Just thank you for the opportunity to talk about what’s happening here in Peru, the art that is fueling our protests, and the siblinghood that is uniting our movements. Siempre adelante!

Preguntas de la entrevista:

El golpe de estado en PerĂș comenzĂł una serie de manifestaciones en las calles de diferentes distritos en PerĂș, incluyendo las calles de Lima. ÂżPuedes describir el comienzo de este movimiento, y sus raĂ­ces?

Todo comenzĂł cuando empezĂł el intento de vacancia a Vizcarra (el anterior presidente) el mes pasado. Nos dimos cuenta que Merino y AlarcĂłn, desde el congreso, iban a agotar todos los esfuerzos para poder vacar al presidente. Esta vez, lo lograron. Merino, que era presidente del congreso, juramentĂł como presidente. Estas personas representan una clase polĂ­tica cavernaria, aliada con gente corrupta que solo busca el provecho propio. A partir de ello, las movilizaciones no se hicieron esperar. El mismo 9 de noviembre hubo una manifestaciĂłn en la Plaza San MartĂ­n (Plaza que es el punto de reuniĂłn clĂĄsico de las marchas) y fueron escalando hasta que el 12 de noviembre se convocĂł a una marcha nacional, una de las mĂĄs multitudinarias de la historia. Hoy se ha convocado otra, para la cual estamos organizĂĄndonos al momento que escribo esto. 

HĂĄblanos del derecho de insurgencia y del artĂ­culo 46.

Este artĂ­culo de la constituciĂłn apareciĂł por primera vez en la ConstituciĂłn del 79, la cual fue elaborada a travĂ©s de una asamblea constituyente. El artĂ­culo pregona lo siguiente: 

ArtĂ­culo 46 Gobierno usurpador. Derecho a la insurgencia. Nadie debe obediencia a un gobierno usurpador, ni a quienes asumen funciones pĂșblicas en violaciĂłn de la ConstituciĂłn y de las leyes. La poblaciĂłn civil tiene el derecho de insurgencia en defensa del orden constitucional. Son nulos los actos de quienes usurpan funciones pĂșblicas.

Y este es el artĂ­culo que estamos usando para poder avalar las protestas, ya que la forma en la cual Merino ha llegado al poder es a travĂ©s de vacĂ­os constitucionales y presunciones de corrupciĂłn del ex-presidente Vizcarra, ya que aĂșn esos supuestos estĂĄn en investigaciĂłn. 

En este año la influencia de la pandemia a afectado a muchas y diferentes comunidades internacionalmente. ÂżCuĂĄl ha sido el impacto del covid-19 en el PerĂș, y cĂłmo ha afectado a las manifestaciones y la perspectiva del pueblo al gobierno?

PerĂș fue uno de los primeros paĂ­ses que declarĂł cuarentena general y cierre de fronteras, apenas llegĂł el virus a AmĂ©rica. Pero, irĂłnicamente, tambiĂ©n es uno de los paĂ­ses mĂĄs afectados por la pandemia del Covid-19 en el mundo. 

Uno de los efectos mĂĄs importantes del covid es que evidenciĂł las brechas sociales que existen en el paĂ­s: Los ricos tienen mucho y son pocos, los pobres tienen poco y son muchos. El modelo econĂłmico y las improvisadas autoridades e instituciones que tenemos hicieron que, en poco tiempo, pasĂĄramos a ser uno de los paĂ­ses con mĂĄs infectados. Y esto llegĂł justo cuando se estaba dando un cambio en las instituciones judiciales y en un tema de corrupciĂłn enorme (Caso Odebretch). En resumidas cuentas, Odebretch fue una empresa constructora que incentivĂł el pago de sobornos para ganar obras pĂșblicas en varios paĂ­ses de LatinoamĂ©rica. En este caso estĂĄn involucradas muchas de las autoridades pĂșblicas desde el año 2000 hasta hoy. Cuando iban a arrestar a Alan GarcĂ­a, presidente de uno de los gobiernos mĂĄs nefastos del siglo XX en PerĂș, se suicidĂł.

Cuando llegĂł la pandemia, el caso quedĂł un poco de lado, pues habĂ­a que sumar todos los esfuerzos para combatir el virus. Pero esto es lo que menos le importa a Merino y compañía, ya que ellos solo quieren hacer leyes para beneficiar sus negociados.

Ahora, estĂĄn usando como excusa el virus para poder criminalizar las protestas y culpar a ellas por un eventual rebrote de Covid. 

Buhho, tu arte es fenomenal y muestra mucha influencia polĂ­tica, especialmente punk. ÂżPuedes hablar un poco acerca de el papel del arte, de los colectivos de arte, del grafiti y de la insurgencia en las calles de Lima y en las manifestaciones?

Muchas gracias! Y sĂ­, trato de concentrar varios temas que me afectan directamente: La polĂ­tica, los movimientos sociales, el graffiti y demĂĄs. Cuando era mĂĄs chico y me encontraba dentro del movimiento punk limeño, conocĂ­ muchas bandas, colectivos y fanzines que daban una perspectiva diferente de lo que se ve en los medios convencionales. AĂșn no elegĂ­a el arte como carrera, ni como un medio de autogestiĂłn. 

Es cuando ingreso a estudiar a San Marcos que me encuentro con un abanico de rebeldĂ­a y arte que nutriĂł mi estilo y temĂĄtica. Trabajando como practicante en museos conocĂ­ el trabajo de Alfredo MĂĄrquez, quien es mi amigo y uno de mis referentes principales en arte polĂ­tico peruano. 

El arte, en este sentido y en todas sus vertientes, es un medio de comunicaciĂłn y protesta bastante grande. En este momento son muy pocos lxs artistas que han quedado indiferentes a la situaciĂłn actual, y la mayorĂ­a ha tomado acciĂłn a travĂ©s de sus obras. Todxs estĂĄn haciendo grĂĄfica, marchando, informando. El graffiti no es indiferente tampoco, hace unos dĂ­as hicieron un mural gigante al frente del estadio nacional, el cual evoca a la Insurgencia. EstĂĄn apareciendo stenciles, bombas y tags, todos con el tema de que se vaya Merino. 

¿Por qué ahora? ¿Qué es lo que une a los jóvenes de diferentes estratos sociales y condiciones en este momento?

Al igual que pasĂł con el Pulpinazo, que fue nuestra movilizaciĂłn mĂĄs grande hasta el momento, hay un objetivo en comĂșn: Rechazar la forma en la cual unos grupos polĂ­ticos pretenden repartirse el paĂ­s y usar la “democracia” a su conveniencia. Hemos estado pasando momentos muy difĂ­ciles por la pandemia, y nos indigna ver cĂłmo a esta gente le importa muy poco lo que estĂĄ pasando. 

En la movilizaciĂłn del 12 se sumaron todxs: Adultos mayores, jĂłvenes, niñxs, universitarixs, barras de fĂștbol, artistas, mĂșsicos, religiosxs, etc. No importa el color, no importa la ideologĂ­a. Contra la corrupciĂłn estamos unidos y no pararemos hasta lograr un paĂ­s en el cual podamos tener justicia e igualdad. 

¿Quiénes son los ternas?

Los “Ternas” es una facciĂłn de la PolicĂ­a. BĂĄsicamente son policĂ­as infiltrados, vestidos de civiles. Esta facciĂłn fue creada para combatir la delincuencia urbana, estando en puntos estratĂ©gicos para evitar robos y secuestros. Pero tambiĂ©n comenzaron a estar dentro de las movilizaciones como infiltrados. Van a las marchas como civiles, y en muchas ocasiones son ellos los que incitan a la violencia, para que los policĂ­as tengan excusa para poder tirar bombas y proyectiles contra lxs manifestantes. AdemĂĄs de hacer arrestos arbitrarios. 

La protesta es un DERECHO ciudadano, y es inadmisible que la policĂ­a use infiltrados para poder lograr sus objetivos. 

Durante este levantamiento, ¿qué palabras puedes ofrecernos desde lejos? Cómo podemos apoyar, que debemos compartir, etc

En estos momentos, la mejor manera de ayudarnos es difundir informaciĂłn que viene de fuentes directas de los manifestantes. Mostrar al mundo quĂ© es lo que estĂĄ pasando en estos momentos y cuĂĄl es nuestra lucha. Muchxs compañerxs de otros paĂ­ses estĂĄn compartiendo la brutalidad de la represiĂłn policial, pero tbm el arte y las demandas que tenemos ante este gobierno usurpador. 

EconĂłmicamente, se puede ayudar financiando a grupos que apoyan a los heridos en las protestas como La Brigada MĂ©dica de Lima, grupos de soporte y heridos. 

Y desde ya les agradezco el interĂ©s por nuestra situaciĂłn, y la difusiĂłn de cualquier tipo de informaciĂłn para donde estĂ©n. 

Algo mas?

Solo agradecer por el espacio de esta entrevista para poder hablar un poco de lo que viene pasando en PerĂș, el arte que soporta nuestras protestas y la hermandad que nos une en este momento. Siempre adelante!

Mariella Mendoza is an undocumented artist, writer, organizer, and member of Black Rose Anarchist Federation.

Follow them on Instagram and Twitter @kuruchitx