Peru: time for the cholos?

Marcelo Guimarães Lima, Leaf, oil on canvas, 19 x 18cm, 2020


Analysis of the Peruvian elections, and the second round marked by a campaign of terror to stop the “red peril” of socialist Pedro Castillo

The result of the first round of elections in Peru, which kept the socialist Pedro Castillo and the ultra-right Keiko Fujimori in contention, may come as a surprise, especially when the scenario was marked by the triple crisis: health, corruption and politics. A scenario that today means the possibility of the return of fascist authoritarianism and Fujimori corruption.

In the last 50 years, the country has been organized, which lived for 350 years as a republic of Indians and a republic of whites, as a republic of cholos, who have access to certain rights but are still not equal to whites, who exercise power and control of the country's symbolic universe.

Tastes, fashions, what is and, too, decent or politically correct are decided by this class. Naturally, according to Western canons, of Eurocentric matrix, points out Vicente Otta in the other look.

The Peruvian left, which is theoretically called upon to dynamize the subversion of the Eurocentric cultural domain, which disqualifies and ridicules millenary history and its extraordinary achievements, often shares the Eurocentric and prejudiced gaze against our peoples and their customs. He sees Peru as a trunk of the creole-seignorial Lima, he adds.

From Tio Frijolito to today

For the first time since 1985, when Alfonso “Tio Frijolito” Barrantes was the leader of the United Left, Peruvian progressivism, divided, emerged as an alternative power: the sum of the votes of Castillo and Verónika Mendoza surpassed 26%, while Barrantes had reached 21% against Alan Garcia. Some analysts remember that between 1990 and 2015 the Peruvian left had an electoral line, but not a political line; resigned from political work.

The social process did not stop and manifested itself in the struggles of Conga, Bagua, Las Bambas and Tia María, while the progressive parties unsuccessfully marched through the different electoral processes. For Gustavo Espinoza, the division now appears as an expression of two trends. The first – personified in Pedro Castillo – symbolizes “those from below”. The second is composed of a purely electoral amalgamation, which became diffuse as it retreated in the face of the siege of reaction.

Verónica Mendoza, the candidate for progressivism, had a good campaign, with a lot of sacrifice and even heroism. The central themes of her proposals were gender equality policies, the legalization of abortion and equal marriage. And she suffered the hardest attacks from the right, from the fake News in social networks and the hegemonic media. She was cornered and pushed into a corner, and, little by little, she gave way. She met with businessmen to “give guarantees” to private investment, stopped talking about the Central Reserve Bank and even took the revenues of the International Monetary Fund as an example.

Castillo, a teacher union leader, rose to prominence in 2017 when he led a teachers' strike that lasted more than two months. Some recall that the now radical leftist was, for almost two decades, a member of the party of former neoliberal president Alejandro Toledo, now accused of corruption.

Unlike Verónika Mendoza and the left-wing coalition that the progressive candidate leads, Castillo has conservative positions on gender issues and rejects these proposals, which may have favored him over Mendoza in popular sectors and in Andean and rural areas. He coincides in this with the right, with which she will compete in the second round.

The two left-wing candidates agree on the need to change the neoliberal model and the Constitution, but they showed differences in relation to Venezuela. Mendoza initially admitted that it was “an authoritarian regime”, then said that “it is a dictatorship”, and finally capitulated and said: “I am against this dictatorship”. When Castillo was told that Venezuela was a dictatorship, he curtly replied, "No." And when asked to explain his opinion, he said two things: it has a parliament and there is opposition.

It is true that Verónika bore all the weight of the aggressions of the establishment. They doctored photos of her with Abimael Guzmán to disqualify her, called her a “terrorist”, but the right did not – in any way – engage with Castillo. He didn't attack him, he didn't criticize him, he wasn't even disdained. To the right, the enemy was Verónika. When they wanted to hit him, it was too late. He led research that couldn't even be published.

The Straw Hat Socialist

Castillo, 51, who entered the scene only at the end of this, his first electoral campaign, always walks with a straw hat and a pencil, presents proposals such as closing Congress and went to vote riding a mare. In his government plan, he maintains that “corruption is the new state terrorism”. He is a primary school teacher in the Andean region of Cajamarca and gained national notoriety when he led a three-month teachers' strike in 2017. He was then accused of having links with the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef), the political wing of the Sendero Luminoso group , something he has always denied. He began his political career in 2005, with the Peru Possible party, of former President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006).

In 2017, he joined the Peru Livre movement, led by Vladimir Cerrón, a former regional governor who claims to be a Marxist and Mariateguist and who was on Castillo's ballot as vice president, until the Special Electoral Jury (JEE) declared his request because there was a judgment in force against him. Castillo said Cerrón "was convicted, not for corruption, but for corruption." Castillo was among the campaign's laggards for months, but his popularity has soared in recent weeks, boosted by a sector of left-wing voters who have not accepted Verónika Mendoza.

His radical and populist discourse presents proposals such as a “socialist State”, a law that “regulates the media” and increases the education budget from 3,5% to 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This would guarantee better infrastructure, equipment, salary increases for teachers and the creation of the Peru Free of Illiteracy program, which would recruit 50.000 young teachers to eradicate illiteracy.

He also warned that Congress would be closed if it did not accept a Constituent Assembly to replace the 1993 Constitution, which emerged after the “self-coup” of former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) and promised the formation of a new Constitutional Court elected by the people , in a popular consultation, instead of Congress, because the magistrates “are defending a Constitution that put an end to all rights and the looting of the country”.

His proposals helped him captivate Peru's rural Andean interior, where his dominance was overwhelming, according to polling numbers. In his hand he always carries a giant pencil, a symbol of his profession and the logo of the party he represents.

the fascist danger

A week before the elections, the Center for Democracy, Independence and Sovereignty Studies (CEDIS) had pointed out that the danger is fascism, which, with unusual boldness, appears as “the democratic alternative” to “save Peru from extremism”. And its spokeswoman will be Keiko Fujimori, who dreams of bringing together the entire right and taking power to restore Alberto Fujimori's neo-Nazi regime, in what has been called “The Dantesque decade”.

The sum of the right-wing votes, including those for Keiko, Hernando de Soto and López Aliaga, comes to 36%. On the other hand, the great anti-Fujimorist alliance that reality imposes on the country should reach 44%, adding up the percentages of Castillo, Mendoza, Lezcano and Forsyth.

The daughter of jailed former dictator Alberto Fujimori faces the alternative of losing and having to appear in court to answer money laundering charges and suffer a possible 30-year sentence, which was requested by the prosecution in the court case against her; or win the elections and exchange the dock for the presidential chair.

To block Keiko's passage, in 2016, the left voted for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Today, they will have no choice but to close ranks with Pedro Castillo. There are no intermediate routes. There will be those who prefer to vote blank, or not vote at all, which can only benefit fascism. The right will close ranks with Keiko, even if he throws up later.

The Advancement of the Chola Republic

The pandemic seems to have become a plebiscite of the neoliberal model, in the face of the absolute orphanhood of the State, which commodified the urgencies of the population in health, education, housing and security. Millions of poor people lack the resources to acquire them, so death and misery descends on them, which drop like flies. What exists is a great mismatch between the left and the popular world, they travel along different paths. Although they seem to be going in the same direction, they are going to different places.

The construction of the Peru of all bloods, of the Pluricultural and Decentralized State, continues to be a great work in search of an author, says Otta when speaking of the advance of the Chola Republic in the Bicentennial of Peru.

There is no doubt that the campaign against Castillo will be brutal, because of the hegemonic graphic and audiovisual media, monopolized by the right, by social networks, they will accuse him of being a terrorist, a senderist, of receiving money from non-existent guerrillas, they will invent photos and “evidence” of the more sinister perversions, will falsify documents. All in the terror campaign to stop "the red peril".

*Mariana Álvarez Orellana, anthropologist and professor, she is a researcher at the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (CLAE).

*Alvaro Verzi Rangel, sociologist, is a senior researcher at the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (CLAE).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the website of Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis.


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