[Marxism] Peru: "The poor are not prepared to wait any longer"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 13 10:08:54 MST 2006

Le Monde diplomatique

November 2006


Peru's radical future

Alan Garcia beat Ollanta Humala to become Peru's new president in
June but the clash between them and the forces they represent is not
over. It illustrates the political, economic and social differences
throughout Latin America.

by Maurice Lemoine

A week before the second round of Peru's presidential election on 4
June, the media hit below the belt, claiming that 87 Venezuelans
"sent by Hugo Chávez" had landed at Tacna airport in a plan to
provoke acts of violence that would help the populist candidate
Ollanta Humala. The party of the rival candidate, Alan Garcia, the
Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), joined the
condemnation. The defence minister, Marciano Rengifo, confirmed the

The scare story was later denied. The passengers were 79 Peruvian
peasants and eight attendants returning from Caracas, where they had
gone for cataract operations and eye treatment under Operation
Miracle, a Bolivarian government international health programme. The
denial didn't seem to matter, as the same people on the same
television panels repeated their mantra that terrible things would
happen which would make the current crisis seem like the good old

The first ballot on 9 April was a foretaste of what was to come.
Lourdes Flores (Unidad Nacional), the candidate supported by the
United States, the bosses and the transnationals, came third with
23.56% of the vote. She was eliminated from the second round by
Garcia, an unexpected runner-up with 24.35%. Humala, of the Partido
Nacionalista-Unión por el Perú (PN-UPP) was the undisputed winner
with 30.84%.

Garcia was detested in affluent circles in Peru. He had been a
radical social democrat in his youth and the beginning of his term as
president (1985-90) was marked by daring measures: unilateral
reduction of external debt payments, nationalisation of banks and
opposition to "market forces". The national and international
business community, the US administration under Ronald Reagan and the
International Monetary Fund were determined to bring him down. His
term of office, with its many serious mistakes, ended in disarray,
with Peru undermined by hyperinflation of 7,000% and the violent
campaign by the Maoist guerrilla group, Shining Path (Sendero

Garcia was arraigned on corruption charges after his successor,
Alberto Fujimori, took over. He left Peru in 1992 and went into
exile, in Colombia and then in Paris, until 2000, when Fujimori fell
and fled to Japan. The taint of corruption clung to Garcia after his
return. This was cruel, perhaps unduly so. He had been cleared of
some accusations; he has not been tried and therefore cannot be
declared guilty or innocent of others. The former director of the
central bank, Pedro Coronado, has nothing against Garcia and says he
took advantage of "out of time" legal provisions and could elect to
waive them and insist on a trial.

Garcia has aroused much resentment -- but then Peru has a habit of
attacking outgoing presidents. Enrique Zileri, director of the
magazine Caretas, said Garcia was young, attractive, a good speaker,
and hailed as a saviour, so the disappointment was greater.

`All Against Humala'

The alternative to Garcia, however, was the Antichrist: Lt-Col (retd)
Ollanta Humala. In October 2000 Humala, his army officer brother,
Antauro, and 50 members of the forces led an uprising in the south
against the politicisation and corruption of the army under Vladimiro
Montesinos, who had done Fujimori's dirty work. Humala ended in
prison but was released under amnesty at Christmas 2000 and sent as
military attaché to Paris, and then to Seoul. While abroad, he became
involved in politics by proxy through Antauro and some army
reservists. Many of these were indigenous people who had been forced
to serve in the 1995 war against Ecuador and the campaigns against
Shining Path and had then been abandoned by the state. When Antauro
led another uprising at Andahuaylas on 1 January 2004, Humala cabled
support from Seoul and was promptly dismissed from the army.

With no real party (1) and little organised support, Humala presented
himself as the leader of a band of patriots, with no connection to
the political or economic power structure, who wanted to transform
Peru. He planned to nationalise natural gas, oil and electricity,
abandon the 1993 constitution (which prevented the state from
intervening in economic matters), regulate foreign investment and
give priority to food crops and national industries. He was against
signing the free trade agreement with the US, which President
Alejandro Toledo was negotiating.

In the wild wastes of the Andes and the winding streets of shanty
towns, the dispossessed adopted Humala as their champion. He was
known as "Ollanta". Garcia had become more pragmatic as he grew older
and claimed he was in favour of "responsible change", meaning little
or none. Depending on who won, Peru would join the moderate axis of
Brazil, Argentina and Chile or the radical bloc of Venezuela, Bolivia
and Cuba. The media, which had abused Garcia a few weeks earlier,
abruptly hailed him as a saviour. A savage press campaign followed,
with the slogan "All Against Humala".

Humala was blamed for his family, who are indeed an embarrassment.
His father Isaac, founder and ideological leader of "ethno-cacerism"
(2), dreams, on a dubious ethnic basis, of reviving Tahuantinsuyo,
the Inca empire which once covered areas of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia
and Chile. His brother, Antauro, now in prison, does not seem
concerned with democracy. His mother occasionally announces her
support for the execution of homosexuals or expropriation of the
media. Humala did say: "I am 43 and I cannot be held responsible for
what my parents or my brothers say. They are not members of my party
and I do not share their views." But to no avail. He was reported to
be anti-semitic, and to be financed by "the Jewish plutocracy". He
had to point out that he met a group of Jewish businessmen, including
Isaac Galsky, Salomon Lerner and Isaac Mekler, just to explain that
he was not anti-semitic.

He was reported to be an assassin. He was accused of committing
atrocities in the campaign against Shining Path in 1992, when he was
in charge of the counter-rebel base in Madre de Dios department. This
is possible but doubtful, as his name was not in the final report of
the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (3). A former member of the
commission, Carlos Tapia, was a spokesperson in Humala's election
campaign. However, one of the worst legacies of the Garcia presidency
was the emergence of death squads, associated with sectors of the
APRA, relying on the government to turn a blind eye, and responsible
for systematic "disappearances" in the counter-rebel campaign.

Not forgotten

Peruvians have not forgotten the El Fronton and Lurigancho massacres.
On 17 June 1986 Shining Path prisoners held at these places, and at
Santa Barbara, revolted and took hostages. The navy was called in at
El Fronton and three members of the armed forces, a hostage and 135
prisoners were killed. At Lurigancho, where the rebels were unarmed,
124 of them were executed with a bullet in the back of the neck.
Instead of ordering an inquiry, Garcia congratulated the officers in
charge and denied members of the judiciary and civilians access to
the scene.

A commission of inquiry appointed a year later found that the force
used in attacking the rebels had been disproportionate to the danger.
It held the officers in charge of the operation, the council of
ministers and the president responsible for the massacre. That was
the end of the matter.

Humala has been accused of being a fascist planning to form a
military government. He replied that he had been in the army but he
was now a politician. He promised that if he were president, the
military would exercise the role assigned to them under the
constitution, to defend sovereignty and territory. There was no
reason for them to hold civil posts.

Humala has been accused of being a nationalist (which he is) and
anti-Chilean. All Peruvians and Bolivians are generally anti-Chilean,
as Peru and Bolivia were allies in the 1879-1883 war of the Pacific
against Chile, and still mourn the loss of the provinces of Arica,
Tarapaca and Antofagasta. The Bolivians were deprived of access to
the sea, a source of deep resentment. Peru has never forgiven Chile
for secretly selling arms to Ecuador in 1995 when Peru was at war
with Ecuador.

Without dwelling on the past, Humala welcomed Michelle Bachelet's
presidential election victory in Chile, which he said would help to
consolidate the political, social and economic integration of Latin
America. He hoped to work with the progressive forces in Chile, but
felt obliged to limit Chilean investment in strategic sectors (4),
not because he was anti-Chilean but because the ports of Mejillones
in Chile and Callao in Peru competed for trade in the Pacific basin

Peru against Chile

The supposedly non-nationalist Garcia announced that he was
determined to beat the militarist right wing with its message of
hatred, violence and confrontation. He said Peru would shortly
overtake Chile in economic and social development. Peru would be
greater than Chile.

There were allegations that Humala was funded by the Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc), and even worse, that he was
supported by Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela. This accusation was
the main theme of Garcia's campaign, rather than the desperate
situation of millions of Peruvians. It was a classic device, as
deployed by the right in Bolivia against Evo Morales, who, within 100
days of election, nationalised hydrocarbons, launched a scheme for
agrarian reform and convened a constituent assembly. Just before the
assembly was elected on 2 July, Podemus, the party of the former
president Jorge Quiroga, paid for newspaper advertisements announcing
that Chávez's troops were "occupying Bolivia" (5).

Humala had been invited to Caracas by Chávez's party, Movimento V
República, and appeared on 2 January at a press conference given by
Chávez and the newly elected Evo Morales. He was introduced to Chávez
and welcomed as leader of the PN-UPP. This ordinary episode was
interpreted as "interference", the Peruvian right wing was angry and
Lima recalled its ambassador for consultations.

An annoyed Chávez described Lourdes Flores as a representative of 
the oligarchy, which might have been true, but was not diplomatic.
President Toledo was furious and said that Chávez was not the
president of Latin America; his petrodollars didn't give him the
right to destabilise the region. Toledo appealed to the Organisation
of American States, only to be accused of whingeing by Chávez.
Garcia, quick to defend the national honour, joined in. Chávez
responded by calling Garcia a thief and a swindler and rashly
announced that he would break off diplomatic relations with Lima if
Garcia was elected president.

The US condemned this Venezuelan interference (6) while forgetting
actions of its own. Faced with the possibility that Sandinista Daniel
Ortega might win the election in Nicaragua, the US ambassador Paul
Trivelli called the main rightwing leaders together to encourage them
to form an alliance. The US established an office of transition in
Venezuela and a Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to decide
Cuba's future (7).

Garcia's campaign closed with a meeting on 30 May, "Chávez or Peru",
at which he addressed the crowd and the cameras in emotional,
grandiloquent and theatrical terms. He said that Peru was the target
of an international rightwing golpista (8), or plot, to rob the
people of their rights, engineered by the despot Chávez from his base
in Venezuela. He added that Chávez had declared war on Peru and that
Humala led the fifth column.

The atmosphere was tense and uncertain; some people thought things
were going well, others that they were going badly. The economy
boomed as China clamoured for raw materials (gold, silver, copper,
zinc) and the oil industry made vast profits. The revenue benefited
only a few urban people. Foreign capital, the multinationals and
their local partners, the Benavides, Romero, Grana & Montero, Mohme,
Miro Quesada and Delgado Parker groups, were welcomed. Public
undertakings were systematically downsized. Fujimori's neoliberal
policies were still being pursued.

Exports in 2005 were double those of 2001, but with no adequate
arrangements for redistribution, poverty was only reduced from 53.4%
to 51.6% in the same period (9). Everyone, even APRA, knew Peru was a
powder keg. Abel Salinas, technical coordinator of Garcia's
government plan, admitted that Humala's presence had raised issues
that the candidates in the first round had not dared tackle.

Lima v Peru: vote for the lesser evil. Garcia won the actual election
on 4 June with 52% of the vote, thanks to support in Lima and the
isolated northern pockets of La Libertad, Piura and Lambayeque. He
could not resist the temptation to continue the confrontation with
Caracas and said the only loser in this election was Chávez.

Support from the poor

Some have wondered whether Humala's identification with the
revolutionary movement cost him the election (10). Probably not -- it
might even explain why, despite demonisation, his share of the vote
rose by 17% between the first and second rounds, to reach a final 48%
after only eight months in politics. In a reaction against
incompetent, mendacious and corrupt politicians, he achieved
resounding successes in 15 of 25 departments, especially in the
mountainous regions in the centre and south where there is a high
proportion of indigenous people -- Huancavelica (78.9% of the vote),
Ayacucho (83.9%), Cuzco (73.1%), Apurimac (70.9%), etc. These
departments have the highest level of poverty, so Humala declared
calmly on the evening of the election that he had won a social and
political victory. His promising result was accompanied by success
for his party. With 45 members of parliament, including 19 women, the
PN-UPP is the leading minority party, ahead of the APRA with 36
members. No one group has a majority (11).

The regions where Humala won have always supported outsiders, more
out of frustration than ideological conviction, wanting the honesty
and technology promised by chinito Fujimori (1990-2000), the millions
of jobs offered by cholito Toledo (2001-06) (12). Peru has nothing
like Bolivia's powerful social sectors, unions and organised miners.
Fear of Shining Path and the violence of the counter-rebel campaign
fragmented and destroyed Peru's popular movements. Leftwing militants
have taken refuge in NGOs. Some have now joined Humala, others have
gone over to their old enemy, the APRA.

Humala is well aware that he benefited from a protest vote and
acknowledges that the indigenous organisations in Peru are not as
united as their counterparts in Bolivia in presenting structured
demands. He says that the challenge his party faces in the medium
term is to bring all these movements together and endeavour to create
political space. Immediately after his defeat, he called for a new
nationalist and democratic popular front to be formed.

Humala can rely on regional dynamics for support in achieving his
goal. Morales's Bolivian victory did not go unnoticed on the high
sierras. The right's frantic attempts to present Chávez as a bogeyman
have brought a lot of publicity -- the word spread in the shanty
towns that he couldn't be bad if the rich said terrible things about
him. Chávez regards Humala with a kindly eye, while in Bolivia a
source close to Morales said the president believed a Peruvian desire
for change would have been more noticeable if Humala had won. Humala
has promised to fight on and supports the new policies in Bolivia and
other countries.

President Garcia could prove to be Humala's best ally. The former
director of the central bank, Pedro Coronado, had said before the
election that if Garcia won, the right, which did not want change,
would gain ground. If Garcia attempted change, the right would drop
him, and they ran the economy. At the same time, the poor and
desperate were not prepared to wait any longer.

On 28 July President Garcia lowered the temperature. He had been
elected with the help of votes lent by Flores and he did not feel he
should add to the doubts and uncertainties of the people who came
knocking at his door. In his inaugural speech he asked the mining
corporations, which are making vast profits because of the increase
in mineral prices, to understand the serious situation in Peru and
donate a few million dollars as a voluntary gesture to fund the fight
against poverty. (Better to beg for alms than raise taxes.) With a
view to mending fences with Brazil, Chile and the US, he expressed
disapproval of the nationalisation of hydrocarbons in Bolivia.

The next step was to announce a drastic programme of public
austerity. He forgot his promise to revive the 1979 constitution,
suspended and subsequently reinstated with amendments by Fujimori in
1993; and there was no more talk of proceedings to extradite
Fujimori, currently under house arrest in Chile. With no majority in
congress, Garcia perhaps hopes to mollify the old dictator's
supporters. The 13-member Fujimorist parliamentary group, Alianza por
el Futuro, has announced that it will engage in "constructive
opposition" (13), as will Toledo's party, Perú Posible (PP). Toledo
and Flores were rewarded with posts in Garcia's cabinet given to a
number of openly neoliberal members of the outgoing government,
including Luis Carranza Ugarte, minister for economic affairs,
Veronica Zavala, minister for transport and telecommunications, and
Rafael Rey Rey, minister for production.

With a third of the seats in congress, a base in the poorest regions,
and rhetoric reminiscent of Chávez and Morales, Humala does not mean
to give the government any respite. He warns that the ground on which
the opposition fights will depend on circumstances. Whether the
battle is fought in congress or in the streets will depend on the
political situation, on the social forces mobilised, and on the
government's actions. The election of regional presidents and mayors
this month will be the first test for Humala and Garcia.

Without prejudice to the results of the inquiry, Judge Miluska Cano
chose 1 September to indict Humala, on the basis of strongly disputed
testimony, for human rights violations in 1992.

(1) Humala's Partido Nacionalista had difficulty in obtaining legal
recognition and was obliged to form an alliance with the Unión por el
Perú, founded by former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar
to combat the Fujimori dictatorship.

(2) This movement was inspired by General Andres Avelino Caceres who,
with troops who were mostly recruited from indigenous peoples,
resisted the Chilean occupation of Peru during the 1879-1883 war of
the Pacific.

(3) The report concluded that more than 69,000 people were killed
between 1980 and 2000 in attacks by Shining Path or actions by the
security forces.

(4) Chile has invested $5bn in Peruvian fishing, agricultural
products for export, banks, air transport and retail outlets.

(5) La Razón, La Paz, 18 June 2006.

(6) OAS secretary general Miguel Insulza repudiated the accusation on
4 June, saying that it was essential to distinguish between purely
verbal intervention, statements such as "I like this", "I don't
follow that" or "I don't like that", and intervention as action
designed to alter the results of an election. La Républica, Lima, 5
June 2006.

(7) See "Cuba after Fidel", Le Monde diplomatique, English language
edition, September 2006.

(8) From golpe, meaning a coup.

(9) According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática
in La Républica, 6 June 2006.

(10) Morales and Humala met on 9 May to mark the opening of an
ophthalmological centre on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The centre is
part of Operation Miracle, funded by Venezuela, with doctors from
Cuba and patients from Bolivia and Peru.

(11) Toledo's party, Perú Posible, had previously had 47 members but
now has only 2.

(12) Chinito, little Chinaman; cholito or cholo, westernised person
of indigenous or mixed race. Fujimori and Toledo both exploited their
ethnic origins, to win indigenous votes.

(13) El Comercio, Lima, 7 June 2006.

Translated by Barbara Wilson


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