FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Hope in the Andes

Fried pork rinds, fish, potatoes and eggs were sold by street vendors outside polling stations on election day in Lima, Peru. By nightfall, thousands of people gathered in a central plaza waving the white flags of Ollanta Humala’s political party.

Ollanta is an Incan name meaning “the warrior everyone looks to.” Indeed, all eyes were on the leftist president-elect as he greeted the crowd just before midnight with the words, “We won the elections!”

Humala, a former military officer who led a failed military uprising in 2000, lost the elections in 2006 to Alan Garcia. On the June 5 presidential elections this year, he narrowly defeated Kieko Fujimori, the daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who was jailed in 2007 for corruption and crimes against humanity. If elected, Kieko would have likely worked to release her father from jail, and carry on his administration’s capitalist and repressive policies.

This election puts Humala among a growing number of leftist presidents in Latin America and offers hope to the poorest sectors of Peruvian society.
The poverty rate in Peru is just over 31 per cent; in the countryside, two in three people live under the poverty line. In Sunday’s elections, it was the impoverished rural areas that went for Humala over Kieko Fujimori.

“You cannot speak of Peru advancing if so many Peruvians live in poverty,” Humala said in his victory speech, explaining that he would work to make sure that the government functioned “above all for the poorest people in the country.”

Peru’s economy has been booming for the past decade, with 7 per cent growth expected this year ? one of the highest growth rates internationally. Sixty five percent of the country’s export income comes from the mining industry, and investors are expected to provide over $40 billion in the coming decade for mining operations.

Yet many Peruvians have not benefited from this growth. This is partly because former administrations have not been interested in redistributing wealth to the poor through social and development programs.

Humala wants to change that. He plans to redistribute wealth by increasing taxes on the mining industry. The new government funds will go to expanding access to water, electricity and homes, and providing free school lunches and preschool care. The president-elect has also pledged to expand pensions and healthcare for the poor, and lower gas exports to reduce the cost of this resource for Peruvians.

Such plans for economic and social reform contributed in Humala’s victory on Sunday. Yet his first months in office will likely be anything but peaceful. Over 230 protests, road blockades and strikes took place in Peru during the month of April alone. Most of these occurred in poor and rural areas of the country, and were focused on social and environmental issues.

Walter Aduviri, the president of the Front for the Defense of Natural Resources in Southern Puno, has been active in protests against the government’s licensing of Canadian Bear Creek Mining Corp’s silver mining in Peru’s border region with Bolivia. The protesters believe the mining would lead to the contamination of land and water, and that local communities would not benefit from the private operation.

While protests and blockades were postponed for election day, activists have threatened to restart the mobilizations. Aduviri told reporters, “The election of Humala was positive, but the promises of the candidates should be reflected in documents and agreements.”

Benjamin Dangl is the author of the new book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). He edits TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl teaches journalism as a Lecturer of Public Communication in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont. He has worked as a journalist across Latin America and written three books on Bolivia, including The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia (AK Press, 2019).

Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Joshua Tartakovsky
Sergei Khrushchev: An Eulogy from His Close Student
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail