Following hard on the heels of US President Donald Trump, Peru – in conjunction with several other members of the so-called Lima Group – recognised Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela on 23 January. The decision appears to have been worked out well in advance as a calculated move to up the ante against Nicolás Maduro and his government. It follows months of contacts on Venezuela between the Lima Group, the US administration and OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro.
Peru has long taken a particularly strong position on Venezuela. Back in 2006, it became a central issue in the presidential elections that year, with Alan García narrowly beating Ollanta Humala having lambasted Humala for his contacts with then president Hugo Chávez. García, reinventing himself politically following his leftward-leaning first administration, made attacks on Chávez and his Bolivarian project a key issue in Peru’s foreign policy.
Since then, Peruvian policy has consistently berated Venezuela, first under Chávez and then under Maduro. Even Humala, as president (2011-16), took care not to be seen to side with his former role model. Peru took a leading role in the formation of the Lima Group, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay. It was established at the behest of former Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in August 2017, and is dedicated to isolating the regime in Caracas.
It was noteworthy that at the Lima Group’s most recent meeting, Mexico desisted from calling for a break in diplomatic relations with Caracas. It thus challenged the unanimity of the group. Both Mexico and Uruguay seek to promote a negotiated settlement in Venezuela. Nicaragua and Bolivia, for their part, support the Maduro government.
The salience of the Venezuelan crisis has grown in Peru because of the massive influx of Venezuelan refugees in the country. These are thought to number well over half a million. Many have entered Peru on temporary permits and most have sought to make do with employment in the country’s large and insecure informal sector.
Most of Peru’s political parties and media outlets have been stridently critical of the Venezuelan regime.