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The Peruvian Left Weighs in on Venezuelan Protests

Presidente Ollanta Humala de Perú con Nicolás Maduro de Venezuela. Foto de Presidencia Perú en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

President Ollanta Humala of Peru with Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Photo from Presidencia Perú on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Peruvian left, like that of other countries in the region, is being challenged in the measure of its position with respect to the current protests in Venezuela. Is it a modern left or does it support the repression of Maduro's government? What is a “modern left”? The answers are not simple. 

Although on the level of the Peruvian population there has been some sympathy for Hugo Chávez, his Latin American leadership and way of doing things, in terms of Peruvian politics, having a relationship with chavismo almost constitutes media and political suicide. In fact, Chávez's support [es] for Ollanta Humala in his first presidential bid was, among other factors, what cost him the 2006 election against Alan García. 

The Peruvian left is currently in a process of restructuring the forthcoming municipal elections later this year and the presidential elections in 2016. With this objective, it has reconstituted the Broad Left Front, a coalition of leftist parties and movements. In recent days, the Broad Left Front issued a statement [es] about what is happening in Venezuela, which mentions among various points:

1. Denunciamos ante la opinión pública del Perú la ofensiva golpista de extrema derecha contra el gobierno, elegido democráticamente, del Presidente Nicolás Maduro de Venezuela.

2. Esta ofensiva, que sigue un guión conocido, busca la desestabilización económica y política del hermano país y la reversión de las conquistas sociales y de independencia nacional de quince años de gobierno popular.

3. Hacemos extensiva esta denuncia a la derecha peruana y continental que haciendo uso del oligopolio mediático a sus órdenes se ha puesto al servicio de la maniobra golpista en curso.

1. Before the public opinion of Peru, we denounce the offensive right-wing attack against the government, elected democratically, of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

2. This attack, which follows a familiar script, seeks economic and political destabilization of the neighboring country and the reversal of the social gains and 15-year national independence of the popular government. 

3. We extend this complaint to the Peruvian and continental right that is using the media oligopoly at its service to serve the ongoing coup.  

In the Facebook post's comments, readers can see almost a generalized opinion against the statement, ranging from reactions [es] like, “Broad Left Front, narrow mind” to ” ones [es] such as “I mean, if you support police or military repression… don't complain”, with truly few signs of support. On Twitter, things were similar:

We went to hell with this statement from the Broad Left Front…

Terrible, the statement from the Broad Front about the situation in Venezuela

Send these crazy Broad Left Front people to Cuba. The Broad Front on the situation in Venezuela

The local media also rushed to comment on the statement. El Comercio, considered right-wing, titled its news brief with respect to this as “Broad Left Front led by Salomón Lerner supports Nicolás Maduro” [es] and later published another piece entitled “Statement from Broad Left Front ‘a shame’” [es] which gathers criticism from various Peruvian politicians. Meanwhile, the newspaper Correo, now a member of the same corporate group as El Comercio, said “Peruvian Left endorses repression in Venezuela” [es]. 

La República, a newspaper more oriented to the left, has not published further comments, except for an interview [es] with Salomón Lerner Ghitis, leader of the Broad Left Front, where he recognized that the Venezuelan economic model has failed, but that “In Venezuela there is a rule of law that must be respected.” On the other hand, one of the leading columnists of La República, Mirko Lauer, believes [es] that “Nicolás Maduro wants to take advantage of the crisis to pass an open dictatorship, ie. one without electoral and democratic coverage. Something like the cubanization of impoverished masses.” 

Soon subdivisions were developed in the almost never united Peruvian left. Fuerza Social, the leftist movement to which the current mayor of Lima, Susana Villarán, belongs, spoke through one of its leaders: 

In Fuerza Social we have not signed the statement from the Broad Left Front on Venezuela, we disagree in form and substance. 

And later Fuerza Social issued its own statement on Venezuela, where they condemned the acts of violence – “wherever they come from” – and urge for “all guarantees to be provided so that the citizen protest is carried out peacefully”: 

Manya, those from Fuerza Social have also drawn their statement on Venezuela

The National Human Rights Coordinator (CNDDHH), an organization traditionally linked to the left, also drew its statement [es] about the Venezuelan protests, specifying that “the state must guarantee the human rights of all its citizens”: 

1. Lamentamos la muerte de seis personas fallecidas, así como las decenas de heridos y detenidos, más allá de qué posición defiendan. Consideramos fundamental que se investigue, determinen responsabilidades y haya sanciones ejemplares.

2. Ha quedado en evidencia la participación de grupos paramilitares en la represión de los manifestantes y en las muertes. Existen antecedentes en sentencias de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos para calificar las consecuencias de la actuación de grupos paramilitares no como meros delitos, sino como violaciones a los derechos humanos.

1. We mourn the deaths of six people, and dozens injured and arrested, beyond what position they defend. We consider it essential to investigate, determine responsibilities, and have exemplary fines. 

2. The participation of paramilitary groups in the repression of the protesters and the deaths has become clear. There are precedents in sentences from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to describe the consequences of the paramilitary groups’ actions not merely as crimes, but as human rights violations. 

Even Dr. Rocío Silva Santisteban, executive secretary of the CNDDHH, saw fit to write [es] about the issue: 

Hace un tiempo un “analista político” de derecha sostenía que se debía “arrancar la defensa de los derechos humanos de las manos de la izquierda”. Hoy, cuando algunos analistas políticos, asesores de partidos de derecha, sostienen que hay un “doble rasero” en la izquierda que apoya a Nicolás Maduro en estas circunstancias, yo me pregunto: ¿y la derecha que apoya las protestas en Venezuela pero se queja de los antimineros  peruanos y justifica incluso la muerte de campesinos, no tienen también un “doble rasero”?

Some time ago a right-wing “political analyst” held that “the defense of human rights should be taken from the hands of the left”. Today, when some political analysts, consultants to the right-wing parties, hold that there is a “double standard” in the left that supports Nicolás Maduro in these circumstances, I ask myself: and the right wing, which supports the protests in Venezuela but complains about the Peruvian anti-miners and even justifies the deaths of farmers, doesn't it also have a “double standard”? 

Silva continues:

Creo que esa coherencia que la derecha peruana le pide a la izquierda peruana no se condice con la falta de coherencia de ellos mismos cuando se trata del derecho a la protesta contra el extractivismo radical que, financiando a la Policía Nacional a través de convenios inconstitucionales, arremete con todo contra campesinos, ronderos, mujeres e indígenas y los mata (29 en lo que va del gobierno). Es fácil mirar la paja en el ojo ajeno.

I think that this connection that the Peruvian right asks of the Peruvian left is not consistent with their lack of coherence when it comes to the right to protest against radical activism that, funding the National Police through unconstitutional agreements, attacks with everything against farmers, patrolmen, women, and indigenous people, and kills them (29 so far during this administration). It's easy to see the straw in your brother's eye. 

Among those who defend the Broad Left Front's position is economist Silvio Rendón, who sarcastically posted [es] an “Extreme makeover” of the statement from the Broad Left Front about Venezuela on his GranComboClub Facebook page so that it could be acceptable for a certain “intellectual-NGO-disillusioned sector”: 

1. Retirar toda alusión a “los intereses imperiales de los Estados Unidos”. Ese es un discurso arcaico. El imperialismo es una excusa, es un concepto simplista y maniqueo, un invento de la vieja izquierda ante su incapacidad de explicar la realidad, un echarle la culpa a otros por nuestras desgracias.

4. Retirar toda sugerencia que el gobierno de Nicolás Maduro es democrático. Podrá haber sido “elegido democráticamente”, pero es un gobierno autoritario. ¿Acaso otros dictadores no ganaron elecciones? La izquierda tiene que condenar el autoritarismo de Maduro, un dictador parecido a Trujillo o Stroessner.

6. Señalar que el origen de la crisis de Venezuela está en las políticas populistas, similares a las de Alan García en el Perú de los 80s, seguidas desde Chávez y continuadas por Maduro. La izquierda no sólo no no puede aprobar el populismo; debe condenarlo.

1. Remove any allusion to “the imperial interests of the United States.” That is an archaic discourse. Imperialism is an excuse, it is a simplistic and Manichean concept, an invention of the old left at its inability to explain reality, a blaming of others for our misfortunes. 

4. Remove any suggestion that the government of Nicolás Maduro is democratic. It may have been “elected democratically” but it is an authoritarian government. Perhaps other dictators didn't win elections? The left has to condemn the authoritarianism of Maduro, a dictator similar to Trujillo or Stroessner. 

6. Note that the origin of Venezuela's crisis is in populist policies, similar to those of Alan García in Peru in the 80s, followed from Chávez and continued by Maduro. The left not only cannot approve populism; it should condemn it. 

And he concludes saying that “with these criteria, the left”: 

i) le irá mejor en las próximas elecciones,
ii) demostrará que conoce muy bien el discurso que sintoniza con la ciudadanía peruana,
iii) afirmará una posición moderna y se distanciará del discurso obsoleto de los comunistas de los cincuentas, sesentas, setentas y ochentas,
iv) habrá hecho un pronunciamiento respetable intelectualmente, que seguramente será suscrito por la gente pensante del país.

i) will do better in the next elections,

ii) will demonstrate that it knows the discourse that resonates with the Peruvian citizenry very well, 

iii) will assert a more modern position and will distance itself from the obsolete discourse of the communists of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s

iv) will have made an intellectually respectable statement, that surely will be signed by the country's thinkers.

Perhaps the best summary of the Peruvian left's current situation comes in the form of a criticism from that very left wing: 

The so-called “modern left” in Peru praises Pepe Mujica but has nothing to do with Maduro. Nevertheless, Pepe Mujica backs Madruo

Post originally published on Juan Arellano's blog, Globalizado [es].


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