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Peru's Radical Divide PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Tuesday, 21 November 2006 23:24
Peru's Radical Divide

Le Monde diplomatique
- 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 Ch?vez? 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 report.


Alan Garcia defeated Ollanta Humala to become Peru?s new president in June 2006. The clash between them and the forces they represent is not over, and will significantly influence Peru's future. The Garcia-Humala struggle illustrates the political, economic and social challenges prevalent throughout Latin America.

Peru?s Radical Future

Maurice Lemoine

Le Monde diplomatique
November 22, 2006

? 2006 Maurice Lemoine  - Le Monde diplomatique
[Republished at PEJ News with Agence Global permission]

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 days.

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-Uni?n por el Per? (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 U.S. 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 Luminoso).

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 (retired) 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 attach? 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 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 United States, 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 ?ethnocacerism," 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. 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, 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 market.

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 Ch?vez, 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 Ch?vez?s troops were ?occupying Bolivia."

Humala had been invited to Caracas by Ch?vez?s party, Movimento V Rep?blica, and appeared on 2 January at a press conference given by Ch?vez and the newly elected Evo Morales. He was introduced to Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez. Garcia, quick to defend the national honour, joined in. Ch?vez 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 United States condemned this Venezuelan interference while forgetting actions of its own. Faced with the possibility that Sandinista Daniel Ortega might win the election in Nicaragua, U.S. ambassador Paul Trivelli called the main rightwing leaders together to encourage them to form an alliance. The United States established an office of transition in Venezuela and a Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba to decide Cuba?s future.

Garcia?s campaign closed with a meeting on 30 May, ?Ch?vez 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, or plot, to rob the people of their rights, engineered by the despot Ch?vez from his base in Venezuela. He added that Ch?vez 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. 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 Ch?vez.

Support from the poor

Some have wondered whether Humala?s identification with the revolutionary movement cost him the election. 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.

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). 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 Ch?vez 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. Ch?vez 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 United States, 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," as will Toledo?s party, Per? 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 Ch?vez 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. -- Translated by Barbara Wilson

Maurice Lemoine is editor of Le Monde diplomatique, and has traveled in and written a bout Latin America for many years.

? 2006 Maurice Lemoine  - Le Monde diplomatique


Released: 22 November 2006
Word Count: 2,951


Advisory Release: 22 November 2006
Word Count: 2,951
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 23:24

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