Wednesday, January 19

Elections in Peru: … And a hundred years later | Opinion

The candidates in the presidential elections of Peru: Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, on May 17.
The candidates in the presidential elections of Peru: Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, on May 17.Paolo Aguilar / EFE

The climate of tension is high today in Peru. A fierce and well-financed campaign has been creating it, ahead of the June 6 ballot between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, in one of the presidential elections with the bleakest prospects in the region.

Is there a “communist” aggression in Peru or risk that “communism” will win the election as intended in that campaign? No. There is a complicated electoral process, yes, but that is not the same as cataclysmic conditions or a “North-South-American-Korea” to the gates. Three factors, which feed on each other, mark the great contemporary social and political trends in Peru and much of Latin America. They bear enormous analogies with what happened almost 100 years ago, with the crack of 1929 and its effects on the world and the region with the great political and social changes that they produced.

First, the exhaustion of the so-called “economic model” and the generalization of the demand for change. A model that produced growth for a few years, but fell short in terms of redistribution and attention to the population’s rights to quality public health and education.

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The bell with the cry of “Change!” It sounded since October 2019 in Chile with the protests that opened the way to political changes that are already underway in that country; new faces in politics and the prospect of a strengthened left after which the world has not fallen apart. The recent protests in Colombia mark, for their part, the apparent exhaustion of the prevailing political parties and the possible rise of a left-wing force.

With different characteristics, Castillo’s letter in the electoral process embodies, for the bulk of his possible voters, change; on the other side, his adversary Fujimori who has not raised that flag but messages that people see as continuity.

Second, in Peru, the permanent and sustained political crisis since 2016, under the crucial impulse of the parliamentary majority led by the current presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori: four presidents, two congresses, ministers censored without founded reasons, etc. In this context of upheaval, the pandemic fell.

The vote in the first round (April 11) expressed a general disaffection, by all political sectors. The first two (Castillo and Fujimori) reached -together- barely 30% of the votes cast. Putting things like this, society has to choose between these two options. In this Fujimori has a gigantic “anti-vote” of more than 50%, both as a result of embodying continuity, but mainly as much for what was the corruption and abuses during her father’s government (whose management she claims as exemplary) his political performance since he ignored the triumph of Kuczynski in 2016.

Third, the pandemic and its tremendous social and economic effects. Key factor in the generalization of discontent and social mobilization not only in Peru. The region carries 35% of the deceased on the planet, with only 8% of its population. It has regressed to levels of poverty that were expected to be gone: a sharp increase in unemployment, poverty and the rapid impoverishment of precarious sectors of the middle class.

Several similarities to the effects of the Great Depression 1929-31. If in the Europe of that time the unstoppable rise of fascism and Nazism was opened in several countries, in a few other countries that did not fall (Great Britain), economic liberalism was banished, protectionism was imposed and priority was given to considerations social.

The instability in our region was great. In twelve Latin American countries the government changed unexpectedly in 1930-31. Many governments distanced themselves from a “right-wing” option and aimed to change some things in response to the needs of society. Starting, among other examples, with Roosevelt and the “New Deal”, Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico, the fleeting “socialist republic” of Marmaduke Grove (Chile), the end of the oligarchic republic with Getulio Vargas (Brazil) and the assumption by the liberals in Colombia after 30 years of conservative rule. In Peru it was expressed in great social and labor movements and in the alluvial irruption of APRA, which became the most solid of the reforming parties at that time.

So that when what happens happens in the electoral innopia of Peru today, there is the background of what is summarized here. In a process that is not isolated and in which the notion of “change” plays a fundamental role.

Two conclusions, for all the above:

One: we are not in this ballot in the face of the confrontation between two great channels or party currents or political action. On the one hand, they dispute a candidate with a huge anti-vote and who carries a long and questioned past and serious criminal charges before the courts. On the other, Castillo, practically unknown to many until a few weeks ago, who may carry an ideology or plan of action, which generates fears in some, not very outlined and with certain important contradictions and inaccuracies. It is from the “left”, but also from the opposite sign on issues such as women’s rights, sexual minorities or abortion. But above all this, it is he who indisputably embodies the growing – majority – demand for change.

Two: it is out of logic and out of correspondence with reality to see the June 6 election as the “decisive day” in a supposed “communism” / democracy trade-off. That’s silly. If Castillo won, not only would the people not be voting for such an option, but even if the new president wanted it, he would not have a majority in Congress to take such a leap. Faced with a legislature that would be elusive, his main concern, perhaps, would be in this hypothetical situation how to survive and how to manage the pandemic.

In the scenario of an eventual victory for Castillo, as the polls have shown so far, international observers are already concerned about the current pressures and grievances from the “keikista” sector against the electoral bodies. Very serious and without foundation in the case of respected institutions and professionals, but, curiously, they want to delegitimize them at this time with little serious arguments. A sign that the result would be unknown if Castillo wins? That would open a critical channel of chaos and confrontation.

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