[Marxism] Anti-neoliberal leader Humala backs gen strike in Peru

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jul 7 17:38:47 MDT 2008

The Times' paean to Peru as the latest neoliberal miracle in Latin America
is pretty funny, but probably much less so if you are Peruvian.
Fred Feldman


New York Times
July 7, 2008
Peru Leftist Gears Up For General Strike 
Filed at 6:52 p.m. ET

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's ultranationalist opposition leader is backing a
general strike this week to protest President Alan Garcia's free-market
policies and is considering a second presidential bid.

Ollanta Humala, who nearly won the presidency in 2006 and is an ally of
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, said Peruvians were demanding change because
Garcia's economic model was broken and a six-year boom had failed to trickle
down to the poor.

"People haven't seen the benefits reach their pockets," he told the foreign
press club in Lima on Monday. "If there's no willingness to change, the
social tensions and political instability in Peru will continue."

Humala said he might make another run for the presidency, adding, "My
candidacy depends on me getting the nomination of my party."

Since taking office two years ago, Garcia has forged free trade deals, lured
foreign investment and slashed tariffs -- deepening a commitment to orthodox
economic policies Peru started adopting in the 1990s by privatizing state

Garcia's reforms, along with record high prices for minerals it exports,
have turned Peru into one of the world's top-performing economies, with
annual growth of 9 percent.

But the poverty rate still hovers near 40 percent, and while it has fallen
under Garcia, the poor are demanding a share of the economic surge.
Investors are worried that high rates of poverty could pave the way for a
leftist leader like Humala to win the presidency in 2011.

In the latest sign of tension, mine workers went on nationwide strike last
week to demand a bigger share of mining profits, denting production at some
of the world's largest mines. A mining blockade also hit Moquegua province
in June, when 60 police were taken hostage after bloody clashes.

Humala, a free-trade skeptic, said abrupt changes were needed and that a
one-day general strike on Wednesday would put pressure on Garcia to pay more
attention to social problems.

"We want a nationalist market economy. The neoliberal model is prehistoric,"
he said. "We aren't out to mistreat foreign capital, we just we want to
favor domestic capital."

Humala wants a windfall profits tax imposed on mining companies -- the
backbone of the economy -- and said contracts of foreign corporations should
be renegotiated so poor communities receive direct benefits from mining.

Peru, the world's No. 2 producer of copper and zinc and a leading supplier
of gold and silver, is home to mines of global giants such as Xstrata, BHP
Billiton and Newmont.

"We must find an equilibrium so that both sides benefit. Doing so would
consolidate legal stability and social peace," Humala said. 


The government has mobilized the military to help police control crowds and
dissuade would be protesters from taking to the streets on Wednesday. Groups
ranging from farmers to workers to provincial governors plan to hold

Supporters of Garcia, whose approval rating is near 30 percent, ran TV ads
saying: "No to the strike, No to violence" and put up "No to the walkout, No
to terror" signs in Lima.

"We can't be soft in the face of threats," Defense Minister Antero
Flores-Araoz said.

Although Humala is supported by many poor Peruvians and his father was a
prominent communist, he grew up in comfort and attended elite private
schools paid for by his wealthy family.

His father has said he told Ollanta and his brother, Antauro, to join the
army to eventually take power by force.

Antauro is on trial over an insurrection in 2005, in which he is suspected
of leading a group of troops who shot up a police station to demand
then-President Alejandro Toledo resign.

Ollanta has been charged with being the mastermind of the attack. He denies
the allegations, which he says have been trumped up to derail any hopes he
has of running for president and unifying the left behind the Nationalist
Party he founded.

"We've committed errors. Sometimes, internally, the opposition lacks
ideological cohesion," he said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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