On July 28, the day that the new president must take office, Peru will celebrate two hundred years of republican life. Our Bicentennial. The Government has even created a special project with this name to celebrate it. But more than a spirit of national unity and celebratory rejoicing, what runs through Peruvian political moods today is a permanent state of indolence.
We are going through the greatest health and economic crisis in our recent history, but much of our establishment politician continues stubbornly and irresponsibly alleging fraud in Castillo’s victory. They are the last blows of a political class that is dying and that is willing to drag, in its collective delirium, to the most shameful extreme a good part of our citizenship. Apparently for them what Lucha Reyes sings is true: one more failure, what does it matter.
Never like today, the old losers, extinct from Peruvian politics by force of our electoral Darwinism, such as the former presidential candidates Lourdes Flores Nano or Alfredo Barnechea, have had so much free hand to backfire an electoral process. Barnechea even, shamelessly, has not been shy about appealing to a union between civilians and the military to ignore the electoral result. He has openly and indiscriminately accused the Sagasti government of having been part of an electoral hoax. While Mario Vargas Llosa, already without the blush of previous weeks, has just argued that the Peruvian Government clearly took sides in these elections for Pedro Castillo, based on a puny report prepared by the new omniscient squire of electoral fraud: Daniel Córdova, a Economist and short-lived official who, after defending the most absurd hypotheses, has openly acknowledged that neither he nor anyone else who alleged fraud had sufficient evidence to support the theory of massive fraud.
If we were a country with moderately serious media and concerned about the future of Peru, these complaints would only occupy the tabloid sections of an entertainment newspaper. Never in our recent Republican history has there been so much misinformation left and right, with such a sense of unreality and unprecedented coverage. It is as if they had not been disconnected from the Matrix, serving as batteries for the indiscriminate attacks of the most rebellious Lima right wing.
Immersed in this ridiculous loop, Castillo’s mandate has not yet been confirmed by the National Elections Jury. It is a chilling everyday sensation of collective unconsciousness. Pedro Castillo will inevitably be president, but the more time we waste on the Fujimori comedy, the more time we will take our eyes off Castillo. Now, when we should be most concerned about discussing the continuity of vaccination and economic reactivation policies, we remain locked in a Byzantine political dispute. Castillo will have less than 15 days from his proclamation to his assumption as president to prepare for a transition of government. Making a competent political transition is virtually impossible with that horizon.
Any moderately informed political adviser would advise Castillo to maintain the same teams that are in charge of the vaccination process, and that have already begun to take flight, because any interruption at this point would be traumatic. Almost two hundred thousand Peruvians have died victims of the coronavirus and our economy would not resist in the least a new draconian shutdown. The Vizcarra government not only had a terrible handling of the pandemic but also a disastrous negotiation in the purchase of vaccines that ended with a gigantic scandal of vaccination of public officials among which were he, his wife and his brother. As if it were possible to ruin his legacy even more, in the last week Vizcarra posed shamelessly after getting his new dose of Pfizer vaccine, after having received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine irregularly. There were those who came to ask him through networks if, after three doses from two different manufacturers, his plan was to appear at a casting of the X-Men. If Fujimori is disconcerting because of his arrogant denial, Vizcarra does so because of his reluctance.
Castillo has several time bombs: a galloping exchange rate that is close to four soles per dollar — its highest level since it became the official currency; a pending conversation with the strongman of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru, Julio Velarde; and a tax investigation that threatens to tear apart the high command of the political party that led him to victory, Peru Libre. Castillo does not want to commit the capital sin of which Ollanta Humala was accused: the betrayal of campaign promises. If any open wound is still bleeding on the Peruvian left, it is the humalist. In the south, it promised cheap gas and did not comply, while Bolivia managed to put gas at home. The pipeline was a summer dream that was aborted. Humala was a Creole who took advantage of the anti-system electoral flow, but who more than great reforms patented a long series of social programs. Perhaps that was Humala’s only great resemblance to that of Lula’s government. That and Odebrecht, of course.
But not betraying your constituent does not mean committing reformist political suicide. Peru is a country where timorous reforms do not take shape and sometimes end up dying on the shore. That is why many have compared Castillo more to the Honduran Manuel Zelaya than to Hugo Chávez. Although his main campaign offer was the new Constitution, it is clear that he does not have the political force in Congress, or in the streets, to defend this promise in the main. And it is not about worshiping the 1993 Constitution to the point of not questioning it, as Fujimorism has claimed, but about being able to face a popular and sustainable process. More than the Constitution, what Chile has shown is that the most important thing has been the process, which will later give birth to another Constitution. Without the democratizing social process, a new Constitution can fail.
For the toughest wing of Peru Libre, it seems that it matters little if we are in a constituent moment and if there are no political actors capable of carrying out a process of such scope. We are putting the cart and there are no horses. Castillo has wanted to look into the Latin American mirror of Evo Morales or Rafael Correa; he should have realized that those new constitutions were never conceived as non-negotiable elements in the first months of government. They woke up after a long process of maturity, several years of government and great popularity. When the social structures were ready, the Constitution came next. What if Castillo burns all his ships for a new constitution and ends up being politically defeated in this bet? The political debacle would be incalculable and would leave any reformist attempt wounded. And a country without reforms would be Castillo’s worst legacy, at least for those who look forward to him being president.
If the investigation into the corruption scandal within Peru Libre and the Junín regional government ends up dragging Vladimir Cerrón, leader of the party that has brought Castillo to the presidency, surely Castillo will surround himself with the most technocratic and moderate wing of the Peruvian left. The one that has been trying to put out the economic fires that they know are coming: the rising exchange rate or the earthquake in the markets that would mean the departure of Julio Velarde, who just by twisting his eyebrows seems to be able to contain the financial apocalypse. After July, the flood. Velarde is not going to run out of guarantees or directors to endorse his work, so the next few days will be decisive for the banker.
Will something change in Peru on July 28, 2021? Millions of Peruvians wait with hope that yes, that it is time, that it is time. But the disappointment can start soon. Castillo will have to take off his hat and negotiate. It is more pragmatic than the more ideological right fears. A country where there are second-rate citizens, where racism goes unpunished, must change. Something will change when his wife, Lilia, a rural school teacher, and their children who study in rural schools as well, arrive at the Palace. Some angry arcade will arise in our most racist and classist nation, because this Cajamarca did not go through the domestication of Harvard and Stanford, but came directly from Tacabamba. At dawn Pedro, may you not deny your word before the rooster crows. It is about reforming Peru, not destroying it; it’s about growing the economy, not putting on ideological blinders; it is about enforcing the laws for all, not about a corrupt leadership enriching itself at the expense of all. There are many who are justly scared: it is time for you to address them, Mr. Castillo. We will all be vigilant. Word of citizens.
Gonzalo band is a political analyst and university professor in Arequipa, Peru.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.