Bishops offer to mediate crisis in Peru after PM praises Hitler


ROME – With a political crisis in Peru worsening by the minute, following the prime minister’s praise of Adolph Hitler, the local Catholic Church says it’s ready to help mediate between the government of President Pedro Castillo and the protesters asking for his head.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Aníbal Torres celebrated the late Nazi leader while speaking in a cabinet session in Peru’s central region of Junín, where protests have been ongoing for nearly a week in response to the rising cost of fuel and fertilizer. Torres praised Hitler for turning Germany into a “leading economic power in the world.”

Speaking of the need to invest in infrastructure, particularly in highways, Torres also mentioned Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini: “Italy, Germany were just like us, but on one occasion, Adolf Hitler visited northern Italy and Mussolini showed him a highway built from Milan to Brescia. Hitler saw that, he went to his country and filled it with highways, with airports. He made Germany the leading economic power in the world.”

No mention was made of either dictators’ war crimes, crimes against humanity, or the genocide of six million Jews.

Torres’s comments were another drop of water in an already overflowing bucket that has led to hundreds of thousands of Peruvians taking to the streets since the beginning of the month. Castillo, a left-wing, pro-Communist former rural teacher who was elected last year, has been under fire for many reasons, virtually since taking office, but has been able to dodge two impeachment attempts thus far.

At the center of the protests that began last week are truck drivers and farmers, upset over the country’s rising oil costs and inflation, but an ever-changing presidential cabinet, with ministries changing heads every three weeks due to corruption allegations, have been the wood keeping the fire burning.

Castillo’s agriculture minister was implicated but not convicted in two homicides; his education minister was accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis; and his health minister was recently impeached, among other reasons, for peddling a flavored water as an anti-aging treatment.

Amidst this institutional crisis, the Archbishop of Arequipa, Javier del Río Alba, promised the prayers of the local church for a solution to the crisis facing the country and said that the bishops are always willing to mediate if requested by the parties in conflict.

“The church is always willing to collaborate, but to mediate it is required that the two parties in conflict agree and ask for the mediation of the church, always for the good of Peru,” the archbishop said at a press conference.

“We are all hurt by the living situation in Peru,” he added.

Del Rio also urged for sobriety from the government when addressing rioters, saying that “the State must also be very careful in the way it responds to these situations. One cannot say, as a minister has said, that ‘there are only four dead’. No. One death cries out to Heaven.”

He was referring to the four deaths caused by the protests and looting in the Andean city of Huancayo in recent days, where the leaders of the transport workers, who are on strike in several parts of the country, have rejected the mediation of Cardinal Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo, and demanded the presence of Castillo.

The Peruvian archbishop recalled “the demonstrations against President (Manuel) Merino” in 2020 that led to his resignation, “when there were two deaths and there was a big scandal. Now with four dead, the media does not react the same way. Violence always generates violence.”

When asked if Castillo should resign from the presidency, the Archbishop of Arequipa said that “we have to be realistic and it is not easy for a person, a citizen who with a lot of effort becomes president, to step aside. I understand that it does not come from the heart.”

However, he observed, “what is within his reach is to summon good collaborators, people with experience. We have brilliant technicians of international level, people who do not necessarily respond to a party, who can be summoned.”

The Peruvian prelate recalled that “as the president himself has declared, it is clear that he is not prepared to be president. This reality touches our hearts, and we have to collaborate with him” with “very good professionals who can be called.”

Finally, Del Río expressed his hope that “the Lord will tear down the wall in our hearts and Peru will come out united during this Holy Week”.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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