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Castillo’s mask

in his story a hanging, the writer George Orwell narrates the execution of a man in a prison in Burma and notices a detail: at one point, while the jailers are taking the condemned man to the gallows, the prisoner steps aside to avoid a puddle on the road . “Until that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy and conscious man,” writes Orwell. That gesture, that of a person who does not want to get his feet wet even though he is headed for his death, suddenly reveals to him all the horror of what is happening: “His eyes still saw the yellowish gravel and the gray walls, and his brain still he remembered, he foresaw, he reasoned “even about puddles”.

If the acts that most eloquently reveal our humanity are the smallest and most spontaneous, rather than the grand gestures, the epic of former President Pedro Castillo the day he tried to stage a coup will be remembered for the images of the politician reading a magazine in a sofa like any neighbor waiting for his turn at the hairdresser. Except that he awaits his fate in a Lima police station just two hours after trying to dissolve Congress and being ousted by that same Congress while trying to reach the Mexican embassy, ​​he was trapped by the appalling Lima traffic and was handed over to the police by their own escorts.

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“Until that moment, I had never realized how much a weak and unconscious man can destroy,” a Peruvian chronicler might write, paraphrasing Orwell. But it would not be true, because Peruvians have long experience in tragicomedy endings: former dictator Alberto Fujimori —who at least seemed to be clear on how to carry out coups and how to escape— ended up resigning from the presidency by fax from Japan so as not to face the scandal over bribery from his government that had broken out in the country.

There is no one who has not noticed it: in the photos released this Wednesday, Castillo, indifferent to those around him, leafs through what —according to the trained eye of three Lima magazine fans— is a copy of masks, emblematic Peruvian political weekly whose reputation has fallen steadily in the last 15 years. Castillo’s gesture, apparently concentrating on the publication, is feigned lightness, like when a taxi ignores our raised hand and we scratch our never to hide that we’ve been overlooked. Or when we stumble awkwardly, we jump to our feet immediately and furtively look around, trying to hide the humiliation and pain that gnaws at us.

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Why does Castillo believe that his best option is to feign indifference or appear to be in control of the situation at a time when, objectively, he has lost everything except the support of those who still identify with him? Or, even worse, is he really not understanding the severity of what is happening, not processing what he just did, and genuinely interested in it? masks? In the answer to these questions, possibly, are the reasons for the briefest and least planned coup d’etat in the recent history of Latin America.

Details go crazy because all the sanity of the world leaks through them. On December 20, 2001, as a helicopter landed at the Casa Rosada to take him out and the police continued to repress—and kill—protesters in the street, former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua spent his last minutes as president taking photos of himself and signing autographs on portraits of him with the presidential sash. On October 18, 2019, while several metro stations in Santiago de Chile burned due to fires, dock workers called for a general strike and clashes between policemen and protesters multiplied in the country, former Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was caught eating pizza with her grandchildren in a restaurant in Vitacura, a wealthy neighborhood of Santiago. On December 7, 2022, after trying to escape the corruption scandals that cornered him with the most absurd self-coup in the world, Pedro Castillo, the rural teacher who embodied the hopes of some of the most neglected regions of Lima, awaited the outcome. leafing through a magazine Masks.

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As if it were the reverse of Orwell’s hanged man, the way in which the former president addresses his destiny reveals a man who is not there, who does not register, who has not foreseen, who does not remember. Hours later, Castillo would be transferred to the same barracks where Fujimori is serving his sentence today.

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