“If the president is removed from office, I will leave with him,” said Dina Boluarte on December 7, 2021, in Puno, a city in the southern highlands of Peru. At that time, former president Pedro Castillo was about to face his first impeachment vote (there would be three in total) and his vice president and minister, Boluarte, came out publicly in his defense. And she did so vocally. “Not only have we fought with compañero Pedro to win these elections, but we have told the right: they are not going to make us bow down.”
A year later, that same 60-year-old politician has succeeded Castillo, becoming the first female president of Peru in history. Boluarte is a low-profile politician who, like Castillo, has no power in parliament. She is a lawyer who was born in Apurímac, far from the capital. In 2018, she ran for district mayor of Surquillo, in Lima, but did not win enough votes. She was a senior director of Peru’s National Registry of Identification and Civil Status (RENIEC), but left the government agency when she took office.
At the beginning of 2022, Dina Boluarte was expelled from Peru Libre – the leftist party that brought Castillo to power – for having different views to the group’s leader Vladimir Cerrón. “I have never embraced his ideology... I have always been on the left and I will continue to be so, but a democratic and non-totalitarian left,” she said. Boluarte also stated that while she was parting ways with Peru Libre, she was sticking with then-president Castillo. And indeed, up until just over a week ago, she continued to be his minister of development and social inclusion as well as vice president. But on November 25 she resigned from office in protest over the appointment of Betssy Chávez as prime minister of Peru.
Boluarte’s rise to power marks the third time in four years that Peru’s head of state has been determined by the order of presidential succession. In March 2018, former president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was impeached and was succeeded by his vice president, Martín Vizcarra. Two and a half years later, in November 2020, Vizcarra was removed from office and was replaced by Francisco Sagasti, who was president of Congress at the time. And on Wednesday, Boluarte was sworn in as president after Castillo was impeached and arrested.
Upon being sworn in, Boluarte called for unity and calm. “As I am aware of the enormous responsibility that falls to me, my first plea could be no other than to call for the broadest unity of all Peruvians. Talking, negotiating, reaching agreements is as simple as it has been unworkable in recent months,” she said.
Boluarte is the first female president of Peru, but other women have also been close to taking the reins of the country, such as Keiko Fujimori, leader of Fuerza Popular party and daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who made it to a presidential runoff vote in three occasions; and Mercedes Aráoz, who was sworn in as acting president in October 2019 before a dissolved Congress, meaning her appointment was invalid.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition