Peru: Elected by the Left, Ruling with the Right

Ollanta Humala’s first hundred and fifty days in office as President of Peru have produced a “political massacre,” leaving those who built him as a candidate, wrote his speeches, and paid for his electoral campaign in the streets. His refusal to live up to his campaign promises, and dismissal of environmental complaints of citizens living in communities attacked by mining, leave the population who elected him with little option but to take to the streets again.


Source: Latin American Information Agency

Ollanta Humala’s first hundred and fifty day sin office as President of Peru have produced a “political massacre,” leaving those who built him as a candidate, wrote his speeches, and paid for his electoral campaign in the streets. His refusal to live up to his campaign promises, and dismissal of environmental complaints of citizens living in communities attacked by mining, leave the population who elected him with little option but to take to the streets again.

The construction of a presidential candidate is a complex process of building images, writing speeches, of shaping alliances, and ultimately building real visibility.  To build a candidate costs money and requires the effort of many people.  A future candidate’s team makes this effort into an act of political faith, convinced that it will be able to change the course of history.  It is what the World Bank would call an ‘act of social inclusion.’  The youth of the country create campaigns and discredit current politics in order to convince the new generations to vote for the left and not for the right, and so that the older generations recommit their dedication to society, lost in the face of decades of frustration from thwarted struggles.  Going forward, each work group invents an progressive imagination and tries to match that with what they see on the horizon.

The right/left division is delineated by an environmental consciousness versus  extractive policies, participatory democracy versus electoral democracy; reproductive rights versus compulsive reproductive sexuality; the improvements in salaries and distribution of wealth versus the concentration of wealth and allaying of the markets; heterodoxical economic policies versus orthodox policies; a model of export growth versus a model of growth from within; more taxes on the rich versus tax exemptions; the fight against racism and every form of discrimination versus the status quo.

International bi-polarism fell in 1990, and there is a search for the construction of a new multi-polar regional politics, to challenge the military uni-polarity of the United States, in the face of their loss of global leadership.

The class fight today is more complex than just the fight between earnings and salaries, because what is at stake is the planet.  The salary/earnings fight was won by the financial sector, it consolidated in the western world a shrinking share of the GDP in exchange for an increasing concentration of income.  That has been the reason behind the protests of the outraged Spaniards, and Occupy Wall Street, and is so much like the precursors of changes in all of the Mediterranean countries.

It’s already a practice that is well-known, in which the presidents/mayors/governors, with or without the Leftist party, once elected, intend to place themselves in the center politically, aligning themselves with the power against that which they are running.  This political transition leaves some of the old players outside the game and introduces new actors into the arena.  The reason wielded by the elected is that they have to be elected by the left in order to govern with the right.  The progressive governments of South America and European Social Democracies are filled with this.

The most recent member of this growing club of defectors is the Peruvian president on which some had placed many hopes.  A government of leftists in Peru could have been significant in the consolidation of the South American Project.  The Peruvian turning point, which we have seen once before with the election of Alberto Fujimori Fujimori in 1990, was sharper than before.  In 1990, it took two years before he got his companions on the road of electoral cabinet and broke alliances, finally closing the Congress on the 5th of April 1992 with the auto-coup.  Which is to say, he took 608 days to take all the progressives out of the Cabinet, and a month more to eliminate his campaign advisors, before taking up office as a dictator.

Ollanta Humala, in 136 days, has produced a “political massacre,” leaving those who built him as a candidate, wrote his speeches, and paid for his electoral campaign in the streets.  The political alliances are still on the table of Congress, inside a very complicated and infuriated court.  If his partners on the bench leave because of fraud, he will govern with Fujimori and APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance).  Just in case, the President of Congress speaks of the necessity of pardoning Fujimori, and boycotting the works of the committee against the corruption of Alan García Pérez.  In an unusual manner, the progressive government of OH can’t do what the government of Toledo of the center right has gained, trying him for grand corruption.  Either the Parliament hasn’t helped Humala in his work, or the President of Congress is creating bridges for the building of final alliances.

In Peru, the President chooses the Prime Minister and, with his advice, appoints the Council of Ministers.  The “political massacre” on the 10th of December occurred when Humala dismissed 11 of 17 ministers through a presidential act, which first discredited the Prime Minister publicly in some negotiations with the population in the gold mining zone of Cajamarca, and second decreed a state of emergency in the mining zone.  Finally, Humala sent the politicians (from Cajamarca who were in Lima intending to find a peaceful solution to the conflict) to jail.  The Cajamarca conflict originates in the demands of a business that wants to utilize four mountain lakes for its mining activities, going against the public opinion in the region that wants to keep their lakes.

It was as much a “political massacre” as a demonstration of political style.  Already the president can close the newly opened Ministry of Social Inclusion and save the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).  What’s “efficient” are the programs of the Ministry of the President.  Someone might explain to the President the difference between economic efficiency and political efficiency; and that the social inclusion is a subject of macroeconomic policy and nothing else.

In relations with the United States, it has to be emphasized that this was the last country in the hemisphere visited by Humala after his election, following his turn through South America.  He visited the National Defense Council in the States in July because Peru, according to Mónica Bruckman of the Federal University of Rio and Ana Esther Ceceña from the Geostrategic Observatory of UNAM, has an equal or greater number of American military troops as Colombia, and Peru is full of American air bases.

The first official American visit to Peru was made by General William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs on the 29th of November. Before this, Brownfield was the American ambassador in Colombia during the presidency of Uribe, the strongest ally of Washington in Latin America in his time.

November 23rd, amidst the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the Minster of Foreign Relations, Rafael Roncagliolo Orbegoso, decorated his director in Peru, Richard Goughnour, with the order “The Sun of Peru” in the Grand Cross.

In September, a month after assuming the new government, the program of cooperation between the United States and Peru grew from 230 million to 293 million dollars for the period between 2008-2012. In fact, what this says is that USAID has given Humala 60 million dollars more for the beginning of his term as President.  This could suggest that Peru is equally allied with Washington as Colombia, Mexico, and Chile, and continues in calling for the Pacific Rim alliance.

Critics have said that there isn’t any substantial difference in Humala’s the foreign policy, contrary to that which he promised in his two speeches, where he emphasized the importance of multilateralism in South America.

Environmental Conscience versus Extractive Policies

Peru is and will be a mining country.  This is a death knell for the environment, as a threat not only to the local population in the mountains where the mines are, but for the entire planet.  The Peruvian Andes have now remained without snow for more than two decades, while glacially irrigating the desert on the coast, changing their ecosystem.  The mine generates foreign currency and leaves environmental liabilities that have become a big problem in the Cajamarca region.  In the month of September, 2011 alone, there were 90 socio-environmental conflicts related to mining, and tensions exploded in the month of November when the population began to feel that nothing was coming of their prior demands for the new government.

Ollanta Humala’s electoral speech was focused on environmental consciousness, and he initially named a political mentor of his, Ricardo Giesecke, as Environmental Minster.  Giesecke, an international expert in environmental topics, was from the small group that has been close to Humala since 2005.  In his first Ministry, there were two Vice Ministers, leftist in matters relating to the environment, which he made clear during his campaign speeches.  In the “massacre,” these ministers were dismissed along with the Prime Minister.  They were replaced – like in 1992 – by “technicians,” as if Gieseke, Cabieses and de Echave, the dismissed trio from the Environmental Ministry, hadn’t been technicians.  The question now is whether these new technicians are more willing to work with Washington.

Participatory Democracy versus Electoral Democracy

Behind the Nationalist Party, there is a political group called ‘Peru Wins’ that was key in helping Humala finally achieve his victory.  This group was made up of intellectuals and regional leaders that formed the presidentioal campaign, most of all during the second round, when Humala could have lost.  The goal of ‘Peru Wins’ was to create a political process which Humala would initiate, one of participatory democracy, where the social dialogue would be the main characteristic and popular interests would be in the center of this dialogue.

The way the conflicts relating to the mine were managed in Andahuaylas and Cajamarca demonstrated the following:  The Ministry of Energy and Mining arrived at Andahuaylas aboard a plane owned by the mining company Yanacocha, owners of the Conga mine in question.  The team of Ministers and Vice Ministers that was there for the negotiation was biased, and two Ministers returned to Lima out of fear.  This is shows that the government is willing to negotiate on the side of business, and leave fear in the streets.  These Ministers discredited the negotiations that the population is working for, and the people reacted with fury. This is the same scenario that occurred in Cajamarca in November regarding the Conga Mine.  Fear in the town and the government’s alliance with the mining industry has created the name “the trembling market.”

Finally, after turning their backs on participatory democracy, which the population demands all over the country, even more in the rural areas affected by mining, the President has set the stage:  The population can keep quiet out of fear of repression, or it can go out in the streets demanding that political leaders step down, like what happened to Abdalá Bucaram, Jamil Mahaud, and Lucio Guitérrez in Ecuador, with Carlos Meza Gisbert and Gonzalo Sánchez de Losada in Bolivia, all who left due to social pressures. Strikes created the Mediterranean dynamic, where pressure from the street pushed the leaders out of Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen; while there have also been strong protests in Syria and Israel throughout 2011.  The other benefit of this is a strengthening of the democracy in the style of Alan García, which is a gamble for Washington.

Demands for Increased Wages and the Distribution of Wealth versus the Allaying of the Markets

The Peruvian population resoundingly demands improvement of the domestic market and an increase the distribution of wealth.  Humala has addressed this with the introduction of a pension program at 65 years, and scholarships given to students at 18, which he announced on July 28, 2011, in his inaugural speech.  What is less likely is that he will create more jobs and improve wages, because the executive has taken a conservative turn in politics and a neoliberal turn economically.  The initial appointment of Minister Luis Miguel Castilla in the Ministry of Economy and Finances was a surprise for the President’s economic team, who thought that they had earned the appointments.  Neither former Central bank Vice President Oscar Dancourt Dancourt nor economic adviser Félix Jiménez were named to the economic team, in spite of being responsible for the creation of the government’s economic plans.  On the other hand, the Vice Minister of Economics was promoted to the position of Minister in order to maintain the stability of the policies.  Fitch Ratings lifted Peru to a BBB rating in November, because of this continuity of policy.

Dr. Castilla received his Doctorate in Economics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, and, unlike Rafael Correa, has not had a change of sentiment, but is essentially an economist, whose objective is to keep inflation as low as possible in order to allow the development of the markets.  He is a believer in fiscal surpluses and balance of payments, both which have existed in the country for a decade.  He is not an unorthodox economist looking for the development of the domestic market and social inclusion.

Finally, what can create the militarization of the regime isn’t that military men exist within the government itself, but rather the fragility of the political regime elected with one consciousness and governed with the opposite consciousness.  In order for the losers keep the power they achieved on December 10, the space for social protest must be reduced.  Half the people elected something else, and can demand that what they voted for was a representation of their citizen rights.  There isn’t much illiteracy left in the country, and the delayed citizenship of the poor is clear, even more so when the mineral wealth is taken from their soil, and in return they are given environmental contamination.