I arrived in Lima this morning. Bright and early. Nothing compares to a redeye. Arghh.
Late last night, as I prepared to depart from Atlanta, I received a message from one of the HBI staff. They said, “There are protests, and they are turning violent. The president just declared a ‘State of Emergency.’ I am not sure anyone can pick you up at the airport.”
I was uncertain what I would find when I arrived in Lima. And, as I disembarked from the plane this morning, my first clue that things were not just business-as-usual was the emptiness of the airport. There was practically no one.
As I exited the terminal, I met an eeriness. There were no taxis anywhere, and the crowd of drivers, family members, friends, and tour operators was dramatically reduced. I found a driver who said he would take him in his private car to Magdalena. The drive took a fraction of its usual time, as the streets were practically empty.
All afternoon I have been listening to the sound of sirens and honking horns. On my afternoon run, I was one of only a handful of people out. It felt otherworldly.
Tonight – as I sit in the HBI office, I can hear pots clanking as protests continue around the city. Some of these protests have grown violent. Others, like the march this afternoon in San Isidro, included hundreds of middle-aged Limeños demanding change.
This unsettled sentiment in Perú has been simmering for months. Perhaps for decades. It is a convergence phenomenon. What started as protests over the rising inequality of the economy and post-pandemic economic recovery, has morphed into a full blown call for a complete change in the presidential administration. As gas prices keep rising and inflation far outpaces income – people are becoming desperate. Desperate for change.
It is hard to balance the race to find a new normal that most of the world is experiencing as we emerge from the long tunnel of the pandemic against the ongoing challenges of developing and middle-income parts of the globe. For many years, people in developing nations have been promised a better life. Politician after politician has promised much and delivered very little. This is especially true in Perú.
The protests are an outward sign of profound angst and unsettledness. As the country faces monthly inflation not seen in over two decades, and a slow re-start of the economy has yet to impact the lives of the vast majority of Peruvians living and working in the informal sector – people are fed up. Can you blame them?
It is hard to sort through everything that is going on. I am not sure what the next week will look like. One thing is for sure – there is a lot of sorting going on in the world – and that is especially true in Perú.