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Peru: Polls, Strikes, and Independence Day

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As Peruvian Independence Day approaches on July 28, the atmosphere in Peru is becoming increasingly festive and the Peruvian national colors, red and white, are cropping up everywhere. However, on the political stage, there is little to celebrate. Despite the end of the teachers’ strike, organized by the teacher's union, SUTEP, and despite the probability the other strikes plaguing the country will also come to an end, many people believe that these radical measures will return once the National Holiday concludes.

However, Peruvian Independence is not the only thing being celebrated these days. The blog Pretextos [ES] reminds us this period also marks the one-year anniversary of President Alan Garcia's (of the ruling APRA party) inauguration. In the post titled At the one year mark, what do the polls tell us? [ES] the author reviews the government's successes based on people's opinions as measured by pollsters Conecta.

Conecta pregunta a sus encuestados, cómo consideran que ha sido este primer año de Gobierno aprista. El 83 por ciento lo considera, Regular y Malo, el 15 por ciento, Bueno, y sólo el 2 por ciento, Regular. Entiéndase por Gobierno, a todo el conjunto de funcionarios públicos que componen el Estado. Dentro de este saco están lógicamente y con mayor incidencia los miembros del poder Ejecutivo. No obstante, si queremos precisar sobre la percepción que el público tiene sobre el presidente Alan García, debemos decir que las cifras no son tampoco alentadoras pues sólo el 32 por ciento, lo aprueba ante un 61 por ciento, que desaprueba su gestión.

Pero Conecta intenta desmenuzar esta percepción popular y pregunta a sus encuestados cuáles fueron los principales errores del presidente … La población responde que … la Ley sobre relaciones sexuales con menores (33%), la negociación del TLC (28%), el convenio con Telefónica (23%), el manejo de la relación con Chile (23%), la falta de una solución de los conflictos sociales del país (20%), el proceso de extradición de Fujimori (18%) y la evaluación de profesores (14%)

Pero García no sólo tiene yerros. Como principales aciertos tenemos por ejemplo, el Programa Agua Para Todos (46%), Evaluación de profesores (42%), La Pena de muerte para violadores (39%), Negociación del TLC (27%), Recuperación de Santa Anita (17%), Iniciativa de Austeridad (17%) y la Modificación de la carrera magisterial (12%).

Conecta ask people what they think about Garcia's first year in office. 83% consider it fair or poor, 15% good, and only 2% fair. By government, the survey includes all public employees who work for the State. Included within this category are of course members of the Executive branch. Nonetheless, if we really want to be precise about the public's opinion of President Alan Garcia, we should point out that the survey results are not very promising: only 32% approves of his government, while 61% disapproves.

But Conecta tries to delve deeper into the public's perceptions and asks people what they consider to be the President's main errors. The people respond: the law regarding lowering the age of consent for sexual relations (33%), the negotiations for a Free Trade Treaty with the United States (28%), the pact with the telecom giant Telefónica (23%), the relationship with neighboring Chile (23%), the lack of a solution to the social conflicts affecting the country (20%), the extradition of former President Alberto Fujimori (18%), and the evaluation of schoolteachers (14%).

But, Garcia doesn't have only faults. The main successes of his government (according to this poll) is the program that guarantees potable water for all Peruvians (46%), the evaluation of schoolteachers (42%), the death penalty for rapists (39%), the negotiation of the Free Trade Treaty with the US (27%), the government takeover of the Santa Anita market which had been overrun by squatters (17%), the government's austerity initiative (17%), and the modifications to the magisterial career (12%).

As we see, some of the themes are duplicated. While some see the evaluation of schoolteachers as an error, others see it as a success. The same thing happens with the Free Trade Treaty. So, you can't please everyone. Reality changes depending on the prism with which you view it. Of course, this depends on the respondents’ political ideologies, which are mostly comprised of leftists or liberals who have hard-to-change and pre-defined ideas about certain issues. And as long as we're discussing ideologies and partisan affiliations, Bloguiarquía reflects on the lack of political articulation among the opposition parties during the recent strikes, and the consequences of such, in the post titled, What is going on with the opposition? [ES]

Algo que ha llamado la atención es el silencio de la débil oposición que tiene el gobierno aprista. Llama la atención porque demuestra lo difícil que es en un país con partidos débiles oponerse a uno que tiene cierta tradición y penetración en la población, con mayores niveles de institucionalización y organización, pero lo fácil que es organizarse y oponerse a un partido como Perú Posible, lo que en Ciencia Política se llama issue party, como todos los movimientos independientes de los años 90: carecían de ideario político y respondían en función directa a algo.

La oposición de Toledo fueron partidos más o menos organizados. García y el Apra carecen de oposición. Su oposición entre 1985 y 1990 lo conformaron la Izquierda Unida y el eje de derecha PPC-AP, al que luego se unió el Movimiento Libertad. Por más década desastrosa que haya sido, los partidos eran el centro de la política y con mayor fortaleza, podían hacer verdadera oposición. En el contexto actual la Izquierda Unida no existe y su electorado se reparte entre el fujimorismo y los nacionalistas (y a nivel regional, en movimientos locales). El voto de centro y de derecha se fueron en gran parte al Apra, tras la nueva derrota de Lourdes Flores. ¿Puede haber entonces una verdadera oposición? El nacionalismo era la gran alternativa, pero había un exceso de personalismo. De haber ganado Ollanta la situación habría sido distinta, el nacionalismo se habría mantenido como unidad, pero la derrota trajo sus consecuencias.

Ante una oposición formal en el Congreso, ha aparecido una oposición “informal” en las calles. Por un lado, motivado por el miedo histórico que hay hacia el Apra . Por otro lado, y evidentemente, ante el incumplimiento de muchas de las promesas electorales y algunas muestras de prepotencia. Algunas de las protestas son justificadas, pero los métodos (bloqueos, saqueos, incendios, etc.) no. No está mal que la sociedad se exprese por si misma y no mediante los canales de representación, en los 80's también sucedía igual. El problema está en que esa sea la única forma de expresión. Los partidos de oposición, si no son capaces de expresar esas demandas, pierden legitimidad y llegarán al 2011 (si no pasa algo extraordinario) sin capacidad de representación.

Something that draws our attention is the silence of the weak opposition to the APRA government. It draws our attention because it demonstrates how difficult it is in a country of weak parties to oppose a party that has a long tradition and acceptance among the population, along with greater degrees of organization. At the same time, it was easy to organize against and oppose a party like former President Alejandro Toledo's Peru Posible, which was what political scientists call an issue party, which like so many of the independent movements of the 1990s, lacked a political ideology and was more of a response to a specific event.

Toledo's opposition were parties that were more or less organized. Garcia and his party, the APRA, don't have any opposition. His opposition during his 1985 to 1990 tenure as President was the leftist Izquierda Unida, and the rightist PPC-AP which later joined the Movimiento Libertad. As disastrous as the decade was, most parties were central to politics and stronger so they were able to create a true opposition. In the current context, Izquierda Unida no longer exists and its voters are spread out between the party loyal to former President Alberto Fujimori and nationalist parties (which at the regional level become local movements). The center and rightist votes went primarily to the APRA after the defeat of former presidential candidate Lourdes Flores in the first round of Peruvian elections. So, can there be a true opposition? Nationalism is the great alternative, but there is an excess of personality politics. Had former candidate Ollanta Humala won, the situation would have been different. Nationalism would have remained united but his defeat brought about these consequences.

Faced with a formal opposition in Congress, an informal opposition has emerged on the street. On one hand, this is due to the historic fear of the APRA (ES). On the other hand, it is clearly due to the lack of follow-through on many election promises, as well as some examples of despotism. Some of the protests are justified but the methods (blocking of highways, looting, setting off fires, etc.) are not. There is nothing wrong with society expressing itself via non-traditional methods. In the 80s the same thing happened. The problem is when this becomes the only method of expression. If the opposition parties are unable to express these demands, they will lose their legitimacy and will reach 2011 (if nothing extraordinary happens) without the ability to represent.

Speaking of the opposition, Mate Pastor is the blog by Juan Sheput, a former high-ranking government employee in the Alejandro Toledo presidency, and in his post, Intolerance and haughtiness continues [ES], he offers his opinions on Jorge del Castillo, the current Prime Minister:

Acabo de escuchar al premier Jorge del Castillo en entrevista con César Hildebrandt, mintiendo una vez más sobre las cifras de publicidad que está gastando este gobierno en relación al del presidente Alejandro Toledo. Empujado por la soberbia y por qué no decirlo por su alejamiento de la realidad, cree ver que todo marcha bien. Ingenuamente está entusiasmado porque cree que todo se ha solucionado. Qué equivocado está. El Premier y su soberbia se creen el cuento que le dicen al oído sus numerosos aúlicos mediáticos. Su vocación de bombero, utilizando como extinguidor el dinero de todos los peruanos, lo hace sentirse el amo y señor de la coyuntura. Cree que es muy hábil y no se da cuenta que el prestigio con el que cuenta es producto del lobby de sus operadores mediáticos.

… el premier no acepta la crítica. Cree que nos vamos a tragar el cuento que en 6 meses de gobierno aprista ya la pobreza disminuyó más de 2 puntos y en todo el 2006 más de 4 puntos. Ese no es mérito del gobierno aprista. En absoluto. En primer lugar es imposible rebajar 2.2 % del índice de pobreza en 5 meses que es el periodo agosto-diciembre que le corresponde al gobierno aprista en el 2006. Y en segundo lugar habría que recordarle al premier lo que dijo Luis Alva Castro, actual alto funcionario del Interior, cuando ante las cifras de reducción de la pobreza del presidente Toledo, en el sentido que en 5 años habían disminuído de 52 a 48%, se horrorizó, indicando la gravedad de manipular las cifras a pesar que eran cifras avaladas por el mismo Banco Mundial.

I just heard Minister Jorge del Castillo being interviewed by Cesar Hildebrandt, and once again lying about the amounts of publicity this government is buying in relation to that of former President Alejandro Toledo. Driven by his haughtiness and why not say it, by his distance from reality, he wants to believe that everything is fine. He is foolishly enthusiastic because he thinks everything has been resolved. He is so wrong. The Prime Minister believes the stories his media cronies tell him. His desire to act as a firefighter, using the money of all Peruvians as the extinguisher, makes him feel the owner and master of the situation. He believes he is very skillful and doesn't notice the prestige which he has is a byproduct of lobbying by his media operatives.…the Prime Minister doesn't accept criticism. He believes we are going to swallow the tale that in six months the APRA government has lowered poverty rates by more than 2% and that in all of 2006, by 4%. That is not at all due to the APRA government. In the first place, it is impossible to have lowered the poverty rates by 2.2% in the just five months (August-December) the APRA was in power during 2006. And in second place, we must remind the Minister that Luis Alva Castro, current high-ranking employee of the Interior Ministry, was horrified when faced with the rates of poverty reduction under Toledo, which decreased from just 52% to 48% in five years, which indicate the seriousness of manipulating these rates, despite the fact they were endorsed by the World Bank.

Returning to the subject of the Peruvian Independence Day celebration, Ruben Manrique is uneasy about the type of independence we are celebrating, as he comments in his post THE WAR FOR DEPENDENCE IN PERU, Happy 28 of July! [ES]

Desde hace mucho tiempo atrás escucho esta aparentemente vaga pregunta, ¿Somos libres como dice la letra del himno nacional peruano?, y casi siempre lo primero que tengo como respuesta son imágenes de todos los últimos acontecimientos políticos y sociales de que han sucedido estos últimos días nuestro país. … Los peruanos actores de estas protestas y paralizaciones (no todos, sólo un grupo minoritario) no luchan por un cambio radical de sistema, sino por continuar el sistema. Es una queja del sistema contra sí mismo.

Sería extraño, ver a un grupo de ciudadanos y dirigentes políticos realizando un paro en una ciudad o región, no pidiendo más “protección” e intervención de “papá estado” y privilegios para mi región (lo que genera más dependencia y castración) sino pidiendo menos impuestos, menos leyes proteccionistas y privilegiadoras, eliminación de leyes improductivas, menos organismos estatales (pues para estos se cobran más impuestos). Una protesta o un paro por un gobierno limitado a sus funciones básicas (seguridad eficiente, un buen poder judicial y el gobierno encargado de todas las obras públicas).

Pero, ¿Qué se puede hacer cuando lo único que aprendimos con este sistema educativo (tomado por doctrinarios de “buenas intenciones”) es ser fieles a la dependencia?, Que se podría hacer, ¿Cuándo escucho en la radio (RPP) declarar al señor Ollanta Humala su favoritismo por la ayuda del nuevo imperialismo socialista? (caso ALBA) se supone que el anhela un verdadero cambio para nuestro país, pero, ¿Implantando un sistema que históricamente ha fracasado y traído más pobreza?, (Un seudo nacionalismo) Qué se puede hacer si las únicas personas que se supone luchan contra la pobreza como la señora Susana Villarán (un ejemplo/RPP) solo habla de “redistribución de la riqueza”?. ¿A costa de quién o quienes se genera esa riqueza?, ¿Acaso la riqueza se inventa?

For a while I have heard this vague question: Are we as free as we say we are in the lyrics of the Peruvian national anthem? In response, I almost always come up with the images of the most recent political and social events that have occurred in our country in these past few days. … The Peruvians who have participated in these protests (not all, just a minority) weren't fighting for a radical change in the system, but rather to continue the system. It is a complaint of the system against itself.

It would be strange to see a group of citizens and political leaders carrying out a strike in a city or region, not to ask for more “protection” and intervention by the “father state” and for privileges for their region (which generates more dependence and castration) but demanding less taxation, less protectionist laws, the elimination of unproductive laws, less State organisms (since more taxes are collected to maintain them). A protest or strike for a government limited to its basic function (efficient security, a good judicial power, and a government in charge of all public works).

But, what can one do when the only thing we learn with this educational system (controlled by “well-intentioned” dogmatists) is to be loyal to dependence? What can one do when we hear in a radio interview on RPP statements by Ollanta Humala declaring his support for aid from the new socialist empire (read: the ALBA, Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas)? One supposes he desires true change for our country, but by implanting a system that has failed historically and brought about more poverty? (A pseudo-nationalism.) What can one do if the people who are supposed to be fighting against poverty, like Susana Villaran, only speak of “redistributing wealth”? Due to whom and by whom is that wealth is generated? Or is wealth simply invented?

Well, I have more posts to share with you but this one is already long, so I leave you until next time.

Translated by Alejandro García.

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