Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Perú: Bloggers Adopting Congressional Representatives

Campaña adopta un congresista de PerúAt the beginning of this month, television host Rosa María Palacios published on her column in the Peru21 newspaper an article titled We Have the Right to Know [es] in which she wrote about her fruitless tries to get information on a congressman's expenses. When she wasn't able to get any answers, she prompted other citizens to do the same and request the information in an attempt to pressure Congress.

This article was quickly accepted among bloggers, and it spread as a meme. The first one to write about it on his blog and present it as something bloggers could do was Paki's Blog, in Adopt your Congressional Representative …[es]:

1. Primero escoge a un congresista, si es que votaste por él, aún mejor.
2. Envíale la carta (lo ideal sería que la dejes en Mesa de Partes del Congreso, ya que el acuse de recibo del fax de la oficina de Administración, no consigna el número telefónico) Recuerda que el nuevo Director de Administración del Congreso de la República es Víctor Guerrero de los Ríos (cambia el nombre en la carta) El número de fax es: (01) 311 7719
3. Pon en tu blog un banner como este. Te puedes bajar el PSD (sólo tendrías que meter la foto del parlamentario y su nombre)
4. Cada semana publica un post de seguimiento, hasta que el Congresista acceda a tu justa solicitud.

1. First, pick a congressperson, if it is the one you voted for, even better.
2. Send the letter (the ideal thing would be to leave it at the Congress’ Admissions’ Office since the fax receipt at the administration's office doesn't include a telephone number) Remember that the new Administration Director for the Congress of the Republic is Víctor Guerrero de los Ríos (change the name in the letter). The fax number is: (01) 311 7719
3. Include a banner like this in your blog. You can download the PSD (you would just have to include your member of parliament's picture and name.)
4. Each week publish a follow-up post, until the congressperson answers your fair inquiries.

As can be seen in the comments for the same post, bloggers have started to join the innitiative and by performing a  Google search one can find many more. Obviously some members of the congress didn't like this idea very much and their answers varied from absolute resistence to poo-pooing: “If they adopt me, I will denounce them criminally. Besides, I´m an adult, I can't be adopted” (Congressman Walter Menchola), but not all did, some even invited bloggers to Congress. In El Blog del Morsa (The Walrus’ blog) although a congressperson  wasn't adopted, they published the post  Blogosphere and politics: Adopt your Jaguar:

A pesar de que hablamos de unos 20 ó 30 blogs que se han sumado al llamado de RMP, desde ya se puede considerar un éxito la campaña. Ya se ha señalado públicamente la necesidad de que los congresistas rindan cuentas y ya no hay marcha atrás. Que no es el gran tema del Congreso, que el problema de fondo es la necesidad de partidos de verdad, ok. Pero el golpe fue encajado, directo a la quijada.

Although we are talking of 20 or 30 blogs that have joined RMPs call, the campaign can already be considered a success. The need for congress to make their accounts public has been made public and there is no turning back. That this isn't the big topic in Congress, that the base problem is the need for real parties, ok. But the punch was delivered, straight to the jaw.

After several days, one of the requests made, in this case from the Peru21 newspaper, was rejected. The blog “Desde el Tercer Piso (From the Third Floor) attempts an explanation  to this:

No me extraña que el Congreso de la República le haya negado a Perú.21 la información sobre los gastos operativos de 5 congresistas. Y menos aún que lo haya hecho con el mismo pretexto que le dio a Rosa María Palacios hace algunos días. Y tampoco será raro que el nuevo Director de Administración del parlamento me niegue mi solicitud de información sobre el primer vicepresidente Luis Giampietri. ¿Por qué? Ensayo una respuesta. Pues básicamente porque en el Perú nuestros funcionarios públicos, electos y no electos, no están acostumbrados a rendir cuentas a la población que los eligió y/o paga sus sueldos con sus impuestos. La carencia de ciudadanía efectiva en el país, sumada a la situación casi de impunidad con la que parecen vivir el Presidente, los Congresistas y demás, hacen que se generen temores una vez que se produce una campaña para que se hagan más transparentes las cosas en la política peruana.

It isn't strange that the Congress of the Republic has denied Peru21 the information regarding operative expenses of five congressional representatives. And even less that they have done it with the same pretext they did to Rosa María Palacios some days ago. And it wouldn't be strange either that the new Director of Administration in the parliament deny my request for information on the first vicepresident Luis Giampietri. Why? I will attempt an explanation. It is because, basically in Perú, our public officers, elected or not, are not used to being accountable to the population who elected them or pays for their salaries with their taxes. The lack of effective citizenship in this country, added to the almost unpunishable situation in which the President, Congress and others seem to live in, generates these tremors each time a campaign to make business more transparent in Peruvian politics starts.

After this, the blogger's requests also  started getting rejected. And almost simultaneously  The guideline that forced Congressional Representatives to justify their operational expenses was rendered ineffective, basically the  heart of the matter which originated the campaign.  The blog Una Bitácora de Jomra (Jomra's log)  expresses the  belief that in the end, although the requests were rejected (and he explains the legal base of this) the balance was positive:

Hay que tener en cuenta, además, que aunque la batalla legal pueda perderse, la política es ganable, aunque en su caso la administración y la justicia determinen que no hay derecho a pedir esos gastos de forma directa o en las circunstancias actuales o en los términos solicitados, podemos pedir a los congresistas que tengan la transparencia política que ha tenido Valle Riestra.
Lo andado, en sí mismo, es positivo. Sea porque se han presentado 10 o 100 cartas, sea porque el tema está en el debate nacional, que los congresistas se sientan “observados” (porque no son sospechosos de nada, pero sí estamos vigilando sus y nuestros bolsillos). … el queremos saber y el sentido de ciudadano responsable se va extendiendo, y eso ya en sí mismo es positivo.

You have to realize that, although the legal battle could be lost, the politics are beatable, although in this case the administration and justice determined that there is no right to request this information directly or in the actual circumstances or in the solicited formats, we could ask the congresspeople to have the political transparency that Valle Riestra has had.
What has been advanced in itself is positive. Be it because 10 or 100 letters were sent, or because the topic is in the national debate, and congress is feeling observed (because they aren't suspect of anything, but we are watching their and our pockets) … the need to know and the sense of civic responsibility is extending and that in itself is positive.

Nevertheless, criticism of the campaign wasn't absent. For example, El Jorobado de Notre Dame (The hunchback of Notre Dame) in his post  The “caviarizatión” of the blogosphere tells us that it seems more like an ego-trip and selfish exercise to him:

O sea, desde cuándo a acá me has resultado un ciudadano responsable tú, oe, que gorreas cable, que no cruzas las pistas por las esquinas, que conduces borracho, que botas el pucho de tu cigarro a la calle… no me vengas pues. Anda no más. Lo que se busca es hacer evidente tu blog (cosa que está bien). O sea, sinceremos la huevada… Me da la impresión que los bloggeros han pisado el palito del liberalismo político de Rosa María Palacios que bajo el supuesto de que todos los ciudadanos somos iguales (mentira, pues, a quién le quieres engañar), de que todos tenemos la misma capacidad de ejercer determinados derechos como es la mal llamada “vigilancia ciudadana”. ¿Todos los ciudadanos somos iguales ante la ley? Más falso que beso de madrastra. El liberal-Rosa-María tiene una fobia al Estado, porque solo ve “ciudadanos con derechos políticos” y “economía de mercado”, cuando es precisamente la garantía de la estatalidad (de que las instituciones estatales de control funcionen, por ejemplo) lo que garantice que hasta el ciudadano analfabeto pueda acceder a un bien público como es la información. Se trata de construir instituciones estatales y no de decir que no funcionan. Se trata de mejorar la representación, y por lo tanto de no confundir a la institución (el Congreso) con los ciudadanos que ejercen ineficientemente los cargos de representación (algunos congresistas).

I mean, since when have you been a responsible citizen, you who pirate cable signals, who jaywalks, who drives drunk, who throws your cigarrette butt on the street, gimme a break. Go away. What you want is to make this evident in your blog (which is ok). So, let's come clean… I get the impression that bloggers have stepped on the political liberalism of Rosa María Palacios under the said pretense that every citizen is equal (a lie, who do you mean to kid) that all of us have the same capacity to perform certain rights like the so called “citizen vigilance”. All citizens are equal before the law? Faker than a stepmother's kiss. The liberal-Rosa-María has a State induced phobia, because she only sees “citizens with political rights” and “market economy”, when it is precisely the guarantee of statehood (that state institutions of control work, for example, which guarantees that even an illiterate citizen has access to a public good like information. It is about building state institutions and not of saying that they don´t work. It is about improving representation, and not to confuse the institution (congress) with the citizens who innefficiently  excecute their representational roles (some of the congresspeople).

For his part, Lapicero Digital (Digital Pen) exposes some of the motives that prompted him not to participate in his post Why have I not adopted a congressional representative?:

2. El congreso es la institución más débil y más desprestigiada del estado peruano. Piñata fácil. El poder del estado no pasa por ahí, sino por el ejecutivo y por los poderes fácticos como la prensa, la iglesia, los militares, los empresarios, las mafias. Más aún, los poderes fácticos suelen aprovecharse de la debilidad del congreso para imponer sus propias agendas (“disolver-disolver”).
8. No se necesita un canal adicional de intermediación política (aunque se publicita a esta campaña como un “modelo de participación civil“). Ahora le tengo que enviar mis consultas a un blogger para que éste monitoree al congresista, aquí. El congreso ya tiene una página web donde se puede hacer el seguimiento de cualquier pedido y, de hecho, la ciudadanía ya recurre a esos mecanismos. Toca reforzar el contacto de la ciudadanía con sus representantes, no debilitarlo.
11. Una vez que se sepa sobre los gastos operativos de los/as congresistas ¿qué se gana? ¿Qué pasa con las otras métricas de calidad de la actividad de estos representantes? Cumplimiento de promesas electorales, número de proyectos presentados, ausentismo, comunicación con sus electores/as, etc. Toda esa información se podría obtener también, acaso más fácilmente, pero no se le hace mucho caso. Por alguna razón, tal vez seguidismo a la periodista Palacios, comenzaron por los gastos operativos, pero hay muchas dimensiones que hubieran podido atender. Claro, hacerlo requeriría un trabajo más involucrado y especializado. Más fácil es el cargamontón y llamar a que más gente joven pida lo que ya le fue rechazado a gente mayor.

2. Congress is the weakest institution and the most discredited in the Peruvian state. Easy Piñata. The state's power doesn´t pass through there, but through the executive and the factions of press, church, military, businessmen, mafias. Even more, these power factions tend to take advantage of the congress’ weaknesses to impose their own agendas (Dissolve-dissolve).
8. An additional political intermediation channel isn´t needed (even although this campaign is being advertised as a “model of citizen participation). Now I have to send my requests to a blogger so that he will monitor the congressperson, here. The congress already has a website where the followup of any request can be made, and as a matter of fact, the general population is already using these means. We need to strenghten contact between citizens and their representatives, not weaken it.
11. Once that operative costs of congressional representatives are known then  what? What happens to all the other quality metrics that measure the activities of these representatives? The keeping of their electoral promises, number of presented projects, absenteesim, communication with their electors, etc. All this information could also be obtained, even easier, but thye are not paid attention to. For some reason, may be just the need to follow journalist Palacios, they started with operational expenses, but there are many other dimension that they could've taken care of. Of course, doing so would require a far more involved and specialized work. Easier is the massive requests to ask the younger people to request what was already denied to the elders.

The blog Asesinato en el margen tries to give some answers to criticism in the post  Defending the Adopt a Congressional Representative Campaign :

1. ¿Importa cuál es la motivación del solicitante? No. Yo podría ser un racista iracundo y ponerme a fiscalizar a Marta Moyano por esa razón, por ejemplo pidiéndole información sobre sus gastos operativos con el afán de fiscalizarla. También lo puedo hacer por puro ego, por creerme la mama de tarzan, por moda, por paternalismo, por figuretti o por computarme un ciudadano digital. ¿Eso invalida mi derecho a acceder a dicha información o a participar en una campaña para ello? No, para nada. Esto me recuerda el argumento del racismo para explicar la conducta fiscalizadora de la prensa con Toledo. Yo creo que algo de eso existió, pero el que haya existido o no es irrelevante pues de lo que se trata es de ver si es que las denuncias en contra de Toledo eran ciertas o no. Más allá de la motivación racista del denunciante, lo que importa es si lo denunciado constituye un hecho doloso que amerita una sanción de acuerdo con nuestro esquema legal. ¿Qué la prensa no es tan severa con García? Si pues, pero eso es otro tema.

1. Does the petitioner's motivation matter? No. I could be tagged as a wrathfull racist and start supervisingMarta Moyano for this reason, for example asking for information regarding operative expenses with the intention of supervising her.  I could also do this for pure ego, for believing myself the next best thing, for fashion's sake, for paternalism, as a figurehead or for considering myself a digital citizen. ¿Does this invalidate my right to access said information or to participate in a campaign for that? No, not at all. This reminds me that the racism argument to explain the controlling attitude of the press with Toledo. I believe that some of that did exist, but whether it existed or not is irrelevant since what it is all about is to see if the reports against Toledo were true or not. Beyond the racist motivation of the reporter, what matter is if what is denounced constitutes a punible action that deserves a punishment according to our legal system. That press is not as severe with García? Well, yes, but that's another topic.

Finally, the campaign has had some collateral products or unexpected spin-offs, like for example the sarcastic campaign Adopt a Journalist started by the blog tv-Bruto: Citizen Campaign: Adopt a Journalist: Banner for you to place on your “citizen blog” / video: Rosa Palacios is given a spoonfull of her own medicine or the snarky Adopt a blogger, as is satirically informed by the Naked Chile blog in the post  Adopta a blogger campaign is launched. In a more serious plan there has also been a campaign to Adopt a Draftsman in the blog Hojas de Vida: ADOPT A DRAFTSMAN, a campaign that isn't a joke. And to wrap up , this interesting related post is by Andrea Naranjo: Political organizations and the digital inclusion/literacy: the case of Adopt a Congressional Representative. Also, the original Adopt a Congressional Representative blog itself.

The image for this post was taken from the  blog del morsa.

4 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site