Peru facing the rise of far-right groups

By Amanda Chaparro

Posted today at 10:34 am, updated at 2:01 pm

Jota Maelo lets out an embarrassed chuckle, while running a finger over the tattoo tucked in the corner of his left hand. A youthful mistake, he swears, assuring that he did not know its meaning when friends drew this inscription for him. A swastika. He was 15 years old.

Today, Jota Maelo, whose real name is Juan José Muñico Gonzales, has 46, and is the most media face of extreme right-wing groups. The latter took on a new visibility thanks to the electoral crisis which held the country in suspense after the second round of the presidential election on June 6. Jota Maelo was then at the forefront of protests against alleged “frauds”. The accusation, launched without proof by the defeated candidate Keiko Fujimori (popular right), has plunged the country into confusion for forty-four days. The election was, however, deemed compliant, and, no offense to the rebel, left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo entered the presidential palace on July 28.

Read also In Peru, new president Pedro Castillo promises constitutional reform

Visceral anti-communism

The leader of the collective La Resistencia (“the resistance”) which has about two hundred members, most of whom are small entrepreneurs, lawyers, former police officers, soldiers or pastors -, however, promised to put an end to this government “Communist”. Small in size, with an impeccable shirt, Jota Maelo works as a metal founder in a popular district of Lima. He who, on social networks, vituperates against his opponents and pours out his hatred of “Red”, is however rather affable. He claims to be the far right, a right according to him that is neither racist nor xenophobic, but patriotic and viscerally anti-communist: “God, homeland, family is our slogan. We defend Peru to prevent it from turning into a hungry, socialist country “, he explains to World.

Jota Maelo, one of the leaders of the far-right Peruvian movement La Resistencia, during a demonstration against the government of Pedro Castillo in Lima, Peru on September 30, 2021.

Ideas that he shares with a myriad of new ultra-right collectives. Some bringing together a handful of people: Los Combatientes (“the fighters”), Los Insurgentes (“the insurgents”), Sociedad de patriotas del Peru (“society of the patriots of Peru”), etc. All claim to be anti-communists, patriots and ultraconservatives. Some have demonstrated, insulted, going so far as to harass members of the national election committee the day after the poll, not hesitating to divulge their addresses and stand up in front of their homes. On July 14, behind the slogan to restore ” democracy “, a hundred people burst into the vicinity of the Place d’Armes in Lima, threatening to move towards the presidential palace.

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