lunes, 11 de abril de 2011

Elections in Peru / Laura Lomas

La profesiora Laura Lomas, de vistita en el Peru, comparte con nosotros sus impresiones de la pasada jornada electoral, con la urgente primicia de los intentos de privatizar el Lago Titiqaqa. De mas esta decir que la hija del pasado dictador, que inicio la denacionalizacion de los recursos estrategicos del pais, no es garantia para que esto no suceda.

Elections in Peru

Dr. Laura Lomas, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English and American Studies
Department of English
Rutgers University

Elections in Perú are not like elections in Jamaica, which have a history of being marked by violence, or in the United States, where a malaise among the electorate reveals voters' sense that a one candidate or another will not really make a difference. Here, especially in the wake of the Fujimori, Toledo and García administrations, which led to an ever widening gap between the super wealthy and the working poor, one senses a real discrepancy in points of view, which tend to be geographically separated and racially coded. Between the wealthy, European-looking Peruvians and the indigenous mestizos who service them in Barranco and Miraflores Lima, one senses this gap, but the "deep discontent" to which Simon Romero and Andrea Zaraté make reference in their NY Times article "Ex-Military Officer Jolts Peru Race," (4/9/2011)rarely finds expression in a press that almost never offered positive press to Ollanta Humala. But in the elections on Sunday, the vast majority of the working people voiced loudly and clearly their critique of the last several administration's economic policies.

To the utter shock of many Limeños, Humala is the front-runner in the election. My father-in-law, who has for decades been connected to the ronderos, a community-movement for self-governance in Northern Peru, had predicted that Humala would win when I was despairing at the right-wing's tendency to tear up any Humala signs in my part of Lima. He was right.

At my daughter's school--which is a private school that was founded by left-leaning educational innovators to promote freedom and learning through play at schoool, but which has become much more alligned with liberal capitalism in recent years--51% of the kids voted for Kuczynski. I kept reminding my daughter what La Republica announced, that PPK was a U.S. citizen, which according to Peruvian legal stipulations invalidated his candidacy. No one in Barranco seemed to notice PPK's illegal dual citizenship, which he acquired in order to avoid paying taxes. How could a U.S. citizen be President of Perú? It reminded me of Roque Dalton's poem, "O.E.A." "Ye el Presidente de Estados Unidos es más presidente de mi pais que el presidente de mi pais."

An artist who resided for several years in the United States, but who returned to Perú, claimed that Humala had threatened to kill all gay Peruvians, and that if he wins, all her wealthy friends would take their money and leave Perú. This kind of reaction, however, to my mind shows the lack of commitment to Peru and its people of this group of super wealthy people. Do they really have any commitment to Perú? Perhaps like Garcia and his family installed in Paris, or Fujimori and his escape to Japan, or like Toledo's cabinet, which had Israeli citizenship, they really care only for creating conditions for a reduced group of people to exploit Peru's human and material resources in order to turn an exceptional profit.

Shockingly, no one seems to care that Keiko is running on a platform to release her jailed father, whom Mario Vargas Llosa rightly described as a "dictator, criminal and thief." He and his wife's graft of Japanese campaign donations did also appear in La Republica. Yet signs have begun to appear in Lima that say, "I 'heart' Keiko."

When I asked taxi drivers who they would vote for, I got a range of answers. No one supported Keiko; some supported Kuczynski, because they believed in his economic system; some had lucid criticism of the mayor of Lima, the Chiclayan Lucho Castañeda because his management of the installation of new public transportation tended to seriously disrupt traffic, and they planned to vote for Humala. Castañeda, like PPK, had spent loads of money on electoral advertising, but as the Puno-based Aymara-speaking community radio activist Rosa Palomino noted, he might look like he is on the side of the "poor indiacitas," but these paternalistic posters hid from view his ultra right-wing politics. She, and many others in Puno support Humala, where there is real concern over a Chilean bid for control of Lake Titicaca, and how such a concession would deleteriously effect the indigenous communities who have lived around the lake for over 5,000 years.

I found people who worked in domestic service (for my landlord, for example) had been told to vote for either Toledo or Kuczynski. I said, "But finally, who you vote for is between you and the voting booth, right?" And Alicia who takes care of my landlord's elderly mother, told me she would probably vote for Humala. But she knew I was an Humala-supporter, so she might have just been telling me what she thought I wanted to hear.

Eduardo González Viaña, the Oregon based novelist, blogger and academic, called upon Peruvians to vote for Humala, in order to vote against the extreme poverty that gives the lie to the claim that Perú is enjoying an economic boom. Only a small fraction of Peruvians have felt the effects of the economic model that the Chilean President Sebastian Piñeyra supports and would like very much to continue expanding, so as to continue to reap profits based on Peruvians undying commitment to buying and preparing food, according to an undying national commitment to exquisite cuisine and gastronomy. While his opponents characterize Humala's anti-Chilean rhetoric as a campaign ploy, the control of historic Peruvian market-places by Chilean and foreign investors--in the form of Plaza Vea, Wong, and even in proposals to take over the Mercado Model of Chiclayo in Cajamarca, these strike at the heart of Perú's economy and culture. In prophetic fulfillment of José Martí's vision of a United States of South America, proposed in the 1890s, I believe the possibilities of a coalition of nations that the United States and Europe and China would be bound to respect lies on the immediate horizon. I share Humala's nationalist response as an attempt to preserve Peru's national culture and to find a way for that culture, economy and resources to benefit all Peruvians.

In Perú there are no free public libraries, no public swimming pools, public education is chronically under-funded to the extent that the oldest university in the Americas, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, has a frankly pathetic library collection where even faculty members are not allowed to borrow books. [I know because I am a visiting Faculty member there]. Books cost more in Perú than they do in the United States, and without lending libraries, books are practically inaccessible to the vast majority. Moreover, because of a structure of tariffs on the import of paper, books are not printed here. Most books are available only via photocopy. As a result, the great Peruvian literary and intellectual tradition is not published by a Peruvian press. Only by beginning to assert a small amount of control over the vast national resources--cultural and material--of Perú, by forcing foreign investors to respect miminal laws that guarantee minimum wages, that protect the environment, that offer basic public services, will the trend that has been in place for the past two decades really begin to change.

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