Keiko Fujimori will likely win the 2016 Peruvian presidential elections scheduled for this April. She is the daughter of deposed president Alberto Fujimori, who became one of the first heads of state to be convicted of human rights violations in Latin America. Keiko Fujimori is polling at over thirty percent in an early crowded field of around 12 candidates. The election of a far-right candidate who has pledged to pardon her imprisoned father when she assumes the presidency seems incomprehensible.
Keiko Fujimori will likely win the 2016 Peruvian presidential elections scheduled for this April. She is the daughter of deposed president Alberto Fujimori, who became one of the first heads of state to be convicted of human rights violations in Latin America. Keiko Fujimori is polling at over thirty percent in an early crowded field of around 12 candidates. To anyone unfamiliar with Peruvian political history or its development as a state, the election of a far-right candidate who has pledged to pardon her imprisoned father when she assumes the presidency seems incomprehensible. In order to understand the complexity and paradoxical nature of politics in Peru as in other parts of the Global South, one must shed the lens which homogenizes international politics and state development. On the surface, mainstream politics may reflect a contradictory collective psyche suffered by the populace. But looking at the historiography of postcolonial Peru, one will find an unfinished state where power has been usurped by a political class with roots in the colonial era. This elite class descended from the hacendados, gamonales and caudillos has kept the majority of people beyond the spatial of citizenship and empowerment.
Geopolitics has also reflected this centralization of power in the state. The urban metropole of Lima has been running the show for centuries. Historically, Lima has dictated who becomes president, with no candidate ever elected without winning that province. The only exception was during the last election cycle, in 2011, when Ollanta Humala defeated Keiko Fujimori in nearly every other province except Lima; whether this was an anomaly or a precedent is yet to been seen. What is predictable is that no matter who is elected in 2016 the neoliberal stranglehold contributing to the centralization of development of the country will remain intact. With such an acute concentration of economic and political power resting in the hands of an oligarchic elite, how can the people expect to transform society in the voting booth? Remember, this a country where large part of criollo society still holds a favorable view of former president Fujimori currently sitting in prison. And it’s the same country which re-elected Alan Garcia in 2006, a president who oversaw unprecedented levels of inflation during the 1980s. Garcia is once again running for president with APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) party; itself a shadow of the party founded by socialist Manuel Haya de la Torre nearly a century ago.
Suffice to say that the rungs of power had never been accessible to the multitudes within Peruvian society. Behind 500 years of colonization, Los Dos Perus are still self-evident with a country being run from a central city disconnected from the rest. While la sierra and la selva provides the cheap resources in the form of raw materials and exploitable labor, the urban centers reap the benefits while the periphery is expanded to absorb the human runoff of capitalism.
The dominant hegemony of the state has always filtered any dissent through its institutions, pacifying it while ushering carefully vetted reforms that keep the same oppressive systems intact. A prime example of this is Ollanta Humala, someone who campaigned on a leftist platform only to expand mining concessions and reinforce neoliberalism in the state.
Subservient, kleptomaniacal governments have been the reality since the inception of the republic. Peru, like other former colonies, never fully developed organically on its own volition. Autonomy from the dictates of capital interests from abroad never came; there was never any real emancipation for the internal peripheries from the subjugation under a highly centralized state directed from the capital city.
A fundamental institution representing the legacy of colonialism, many contemporary states in the Global South uphold western interests as they strove to maintain the clientelist relations. The doors to traditional power have been shut for a long time. This is why people in Peru and across the globe are rejecting the state institutions and delegitimizing their power. Decentralization and direct action is solidifying itself as an integral part of third world citizenship.
There are few places in more dire need of a disbursement of power for the sake of its people than Peru. With political and economic power first being usurped from the Inkan capital of Cuzco in 1535 with the founding of Lima, the rest of the country has had to settle for providing the cheap and expendable resources for the city in the form of migrant labor under oppressive conditions.
The elections are a distraction, an attempt at distracting from the daily realities of the majority of disenfranchised people living on the margins of the metropole. Electoral politics look to legitimize an oppressive system beholden to capitalist interests. In Peru this means serving the interests of transnational corporations and foreign creditors. It means advancing the exploitation of the “other” Peru, the one which does not fit the Euro-centric model of development.
Empowerment for the subaltern rests at move away from state power. Many on the ground are realizing this as protests against extractivism go beyond putting a halt to operations, and become a collective revolt to reclaim dignity and autonomy. Similarly, the protests against certain presidential candidates are not just a rejection of the person but of the ideology and institutions they represent.
These autonomous movements continue to build power from below, never ceasing to stop the tradition of self-determination in the Andes. The legacy of ayllus (ancient systems of indigenous governance), communal councils and other forms of decentralized organizations run along the Andean mountain range.
The fate of Peru does not rest on the presidency. The Peruvian postcolonial state has only served to undermine the marginalized classes it exploits to maintain a monopoly on power. True independence was never granted to the majority with the expulsion of the Spanish. This pseudo political severing was a mere facade, a superficial reform that shifted the monopoly of power to another set of elites. The indigenous, women, working class, and Afro-Peruvians were never considered part of the national state project. Today, as in the past, the social, political and economic power of such marginalized groups is superseded by corrupt representatives who ask for votes to legitimize their corrupt institutions. The question then should not be how can a nation elect another Fujimori, but how can state power be replaced by the power of the people.
George Ygarza, an activist of the Tawintinsuyu diaspora, is a graduate student focusing on social movements and postcolonialism. He will be conducting field research in Peru this spring to look at extrativism in the south, communal resistance and citizenship in the backdrop of the general elections.