Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras: why has Peru chosen to isolate itself?


Since Dina Boluarte took office, Lima has definitively withdrawn its ambassadors from three countries in the region. The unprecedented measure opens a horizon of unknowns

Never in the republican history of Peru, relations with three governments in the region had been reduced to business managers. In the last four months there has been an escalation of tension whose last outbreak occurred in the last days of March, when President Dina Boluarte announced the definitive withdrawal of the Peruvian ambassador in Colombia. A month earlier, the Peruvian government had made an equally drastic decision with Mexico and Honduras. What happened to trigger these fractures with countries with which Peru has a long tradition of bilateral relations?

The origin dates to last December 7, when Pedro Castillo tried to carry out a self-coup that dissolved in a matter of hours and for which he was sentenced to 18 months in pretrial detention —later the judge imposed a second measure for 36 months for being the alleged leader of a criminal organization. Castillo was detained that same afternoon while he was going to the Mexican Embassy in Lima to request political asylum. The day after his failed venture, when Dina Boluarte had already crossed the presidential sash for being his first vice president, an authority visited him at the headquarters of the Special Operations Directorate (DIROES), where he was being held.  It was Pablo Monroy, Mexico’s ambassador to Peru. Two weeks later, Monroy forcibly boarded a flight to Mexico City: The Boluarte government declared him persona non grata and expelled him from the country. It was precisely Monroy who, around those days, received the former first lady, Lilia Paredes, and the children of Pedro Castillo, to whom the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador granted asylum.

In all this time, the Mexican president has not only wielded a strong defense of Castillo, but has secure no qualifications for Boluarte, whom he has not recognized until now as the constitutional leader of Peru. AMLO has also denied him the delivery of the pro tempore presidency of the Pacific Alliance, a regional integration initiative that they share with Colombia and Chile. “I have seen polls where the spurious president has 15% approval […]. Mexico is going to continue supporting the illegally exiled president and we are going to continue demanding that he be released,” said López Obrador.

His Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, has taken the same position against Boluarte. He has described the repression by law enforcement against protesters as a “massacre” and has even gone so far as to say that in Peru the National Police “march like a Nazi against its own people, breaking the American Convention on Human Rights.” In mid-February, the Peruvian Congress declared Petro persona non grata.

On that occasion, the Colombian Foreign Ministry tried to calm the waters, arguing that it was “an act of a political nature” that does not “affect the relationship” between the two nations. However, it was of little use, because a month later, at the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit, in Santo Domingo, the decibels rose again when Petro affirmed that Pedro Castillo had been the victim of a rebellion. “He should be here; they took it out. He is in prison,” Petro said. This deserved an immediate response at the same event from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ana Cecilia Gervasi: “If Pedro Castillo is not here it is because he staged a coup.” On March 29, the Executive ordered the definitive withdrawal of the Peruvian ambassador in Colombia, Félix Denegri Boza. As had happened, in February, with the removal of diplomats Manuel Talavera Espinar in Mexico and Jorge Raffo Carbajal in Honduras.

The internationalist Ramiro Escobar observes with concern Peru’s relations with its peers in the region since Dina Boluarte took power. “We are in a trend towards isolation. We have open fronts with several countries. It is necessary to repair these cracks, because we are at an important moment in Latin America, where the continent is being transformed politically”.

Escobar indicates that solutions to these differences should have been exhausted before making decisions of this caliber. “Diplomatic missions could be sent. Before taking the step of definitively withdrawing an ambassador, there are previous steps such as discreet diplomacy. Everything can be done to negotiate and seek consensus. Torre Tagle has always stood out for being a cautious and intelligent foreign ministry, always in search of the best relations with neighboring countries, which are very important rings of interest. But they are developing do a harsh foreign policy. It seems that the Foreign Ministry is following the logic of the Congressional Foreign Relations Commission. It will be difficult for her to reverse these distances,” he explains.

For his part, Francisco Belaunde, also an internationalist, points out that the Peruvian reaction is a protest against the position of leaders who delegitimize the government. “This is not a desire to isolate Peru, but a derivation from the fact that there are more leftist governments in the region, some of which have decided to gamble for Castillo. Rather than isolating itself of its own accord, the Boluarte government sees itself isolated by governments that do not recognize it.”

Belaunde highlights how important the forms are in political dialogue, especially when it comes to a head of state. “All countries have the right to express themselves on democratic and human rights issues, but it matters a lot how you do it. The European Union and the United States have referred in a very diplomatic way about what is happening in the context of the protests against the government, very different from the statements by López Obrador and Petro. It was inevitable to react to governments that issue political opinions that can be considered interference”, he explains. Xiomara Castro, President of Honduras, for example, called for the release of Pedro Castillo at the CELAC Summit in Buenos Aires.

Peru’s relations with Mexico, Colombia and Honduras have been reduced to business managers. That means that the commercial links continue, but that the political links are disturbed. A concrete effect of the current tensions is that Mexico has given up participating in the Lima 2023 International Book Fair, which will take place in July. Mexico was the guest country of honor.

“Deep down, there is a problem that the leaders involved must take into account. While presidents direct foreign policy, foreign ministries and career diplomats are the ones working to keep it on track. They are the professionals”, indicates Ramiro Escobar. Each one to their own to put cold cloths on the conflict and not further deteriorate relations. That is the mission, and the great difficulty, for the coming months.

Source: El Pais