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Last Updated: 09/16/2005Five Sad Reasons to Worry about Peru
"There is something different about the way Peruvians do politics," writes Rafael Velasquez. "Something scary, it should be said." Politicians use everything from the powerful coca leaf influence to old resentment towards neighboring Chile to squeeze out a political advantage over their opponents. It is, says Velasquez, a dangerous recipe.
There is something different about the way Peruvians do politics. Something scary, it should be said. During the last month the internal squabbling between the ruling party Peru Posible (PP) and its close ally the Frente Independinete Moralizador (FIM) forced President Toledo to request the resignation of all of his ministers. Less than three weeks ago, the Peruvian congress succumbed to chaos as Congressman Jurado presented Premier Elect Pedro Kuczynski with a Chilean flag on his desk (apparently a form of protest to Kuczynski’s alleged pro-Chile behaviour). Now, these two incidents are not necessarily atypical to the scenarios we may find in a number of emerging democracies. What we should worry about is how and with which intensity politicians are mastering the craft of using controversial issues, past hatreds and current threats in their quest to attain or maintain power.
Andean countries in the world are renowned for the production of coca leaves (the main ingredient in the manufacture of cocaine). Not many people know that the consumption of coca leaves is in fact an intrinsic part of the Andean culture which maintained this practice hundreds of years before the
In the last decade, Peruvian cocaleros (growers of the coca leaves) have begun to put more pressure on provincial and federal government as they witness the accomplishments of their Bolivian colleagues. If coca-growers’ syndicates could be a determining factor in bringing two presidents to their knees in Bolivia, then it would only make sense that similar entities could organize themselves for better living conditions in Peru. However, cocaleros are not the only ones that have taken note of this power relationship. Politicians, of course, are now fully conscious of the political capital in supporting or opposing the cocaleros movement.
The quarrels between the ruling PP and the FIM caused irreversible damage when Fernando Olivera, leader of the FIM, expressed his support for Cuzco’s governor in his defiant policy to expand the land assigned for the growth of coca. Olivera has in the past proven to be unpredictable, besides extremely unpopular, but for the PP this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When
Hate your neighbour
Political misdirection is not a new weapon in the arsenal of Peruvian politics. Nevertheless, politicians have reached absurd new levels when it comes to distracting the attention of an apprehensive civil society with threats from “the enemy of the south”. During this year alone we can identify four clear moments in which the media was saturated with stories on the worsening situation with
Should the media or political elite (which many argue to be the same) run out of scenarios such as the aforementioned, they may always rest on the unsettled dispute over the maritime limitations between both countries, and the numerous accusations of property rights infringement over Peruvian goods including its national drink (Pisco), fruits (Chirimoya) and even desserts (Suspiro a
Resentments from both countries have been present throughout their history. The behaviour of both and their honest desire to maintain neighbourly relations can be more than questioned. Nevertheless, the incidence of this situations and the manner in which politicians seem to work with them has reached unprecedented levels. The unaccounted variable in this equation is the consolidating predisposition of Peruvians to quickly direct themselves against
The Humala Revolution
Antauro and Ollanta Humala are two brothers who served in the Peruvian military during the years of terrorism. In October 2000 both brothers rose in arms against Fujimori’s autocratic regime gaining a considerable amount of popularity and support. Once Fujimori fled the country, amidst accusations of corruption, both rendered themselves to the law enforcement community and, later, were cleared of any wrongdoing becoming heroes of democracy. What must Peruvians did not know at that point is that more than a year before the 2000 insurgency Isaac Humala (the father) had founded the Ethnocacerista movement. The Ethnocaceristas are, in short, a militaristic nationalist movement that demands the re-organization of the Peruvian political system along ethnic lines, opposes any free trade negotiation and seeks to push forward the economic, social and political retribution of
If it wasn’t the Nazi-like symbols that “throw people off their wagon” then it probably was the seizing of a remote police station in Andahuaylas in January of this year, where six people died. Still, the Humalas have managed to retain a strong base in the Andes and have proven, twice now, to be very capable of mobilizing
Precedence in the Region
The Humalas may have not had much luck starting a revolution but definitely have set their sight on the right subject to do so. A quick snapshot in the region brings into question why
There are now a number of articles questioning when the indigenous population of
Terrorists like the phoenix
Throughout the 1980s
The root causes that fostered the emergence and perpetuation of the internal fracas have not been addressed. The Government continues to be perceived as a failed or absent landlord in the most remote areas of the country. Half of the population of the country continues to live in poverty at exactly the same level as they did in 1991 (54%). Most importantly, a frustrated rural population is, once again, beginning to take justice into their hands (as was the case with the murder of Llaves’ mayor last year).
Not long ago a video with one of the Shining Path’s remaining leaders, comrade Artemio, circulated around the media. In the recording, Artemio, in disguise, stressed the need to continue the internal struggle and their solemn vow to bring justice to their name. Within the same week media analysts claimed that the video was in fact prepared by the increasingly unpopular military. Should these claims be true, it could be demonstrated that political diversion is not only practiced by politicians but also by the armed forces.
A dangerous recipe
 International Crisis Group “Coca, Drugs and Social Protest in
 El Comercio “Cuando la hoja de Coca puede ser el Diablo en Campaña”. Accessed on 7/08/2005
 Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, Accessed on April 2005 http://www.rpp.com.pe/portada/politica/1823_1.php
 RPP Noticias “Toledo exige a Chile disculpas públicas por venta de armas a Ecuador”, Accessed on May 2005 http://www.rpp.com.pe/portada/politica/2541_1.php
 Radio Cooperativa “Video de LAN desata la ira de Congresistas Peruanos”, Accesses on April 2005 http://www.cooperativa.cl/p4_noticias/antialone.html?page=http://www.cooperativa.cl/p4_noticias/site/artic/20050421/pags/20050421180350.html
 Luis Esteban Gonzales Manrique “Etnonacionalismo: Las nuevas tenciones interetnicas en America Latina” Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales y Estratégicos” Accessed on May 2005 http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/738.asp
 Guillermo Nungent “Andahuaylas: el limite de la traduccion politica” Quehacer. Enero/Febrero 2005
 Michael Shifter, “Unrest in the
 The Economist “
Rafael holds a MA in International Peace Studies from the United Nations University for Peace. He currently works in the area of communication for an International Organization and as consultant in the area of African Conflict Management. He may be reached at email@example.com