Winds of change for Peru?
Written by: Max O. on 4 September 2021
June this year saw the election of a progressive president for Peru. Pedro Castillo, a 51-year-old school teacher and unionist, narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former president and dictator of Peru Alberto Fujimori. Once again, a progressive wind is blowing through Latin America, replacing right-wing reactionary presidents with reformist political leaders. The neo-liberal economic policies implemented throughout Latin America that crippled workers and especially the Indigenous peoples, have plummeted in legitimacy and no amount of expensive campaign advertising can hold back the people's mounting opposition.
The election of President Castillo is a further example of what has been termed the 'Pink Gale' blowing through the region, and follows on from Luis Arce who won the presidency of Bolivia, Alberto Fernández in Argentina and López Obrador in Mexico. There is a good chance that the left-wing Lula da Silva will win the presidency and replace the reactionary Bolsonaro in Brazil. All these elections are the aftershocks of the explosive divisions throughout the region that are overshadowed by massive class inequality and now devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right-wing politicians and powerful oligarchs backed by US financial capital have from the presidential election onwards attempted to demonise Castillo and his campaign as communists and terrorist sympathizers. When this didn't work Keiko Fujimori (herself facing corruption charges) and her backers attempted to stall Castillo's inauguration to the presidential office by objecting to hundreds of thousands of ballots as invalid. Unrelenting in their attempts to stymie his incoming government far-right politicians have also raised objections against 12 of Castillo's 19 ministers. No doubt the Peruvian oligarchs and their reactionary politicians will use the same playbook that was employed in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador etc to destabilise left-wing leaders and governments.
Pedro Castillo heralds from the Perú Libre party that describes itself as a left-wing socialist party that upholds Marxism, Leninism and Mariateguism (Mariategui was a leader of the Peruvian Communist Party in the 1920s). However, there are conflicting reports about Castillo's political behaviour. He has been extremely contradictory, saying one thing to eager crowds on the campaign trail and another to mainstream journalists, television stations and multinational corporations. For example, the media have reported that he has refuted communism and stated in public that there is "No Chavismo here".
Perú Libre party platform calls for the nationalization of resources and industry, a massive increase in education funding, and the creation of a new constitution to overturn the current one that was enforced in the 1990s by the neoliberal president/dictator Alberto Fujimori. Whilst Castillo promised “No more poor people in a rich country” he has also reassured foreign corporations that his government would not nationalize industry within Peru.
A good example of this duplicity came soon after he won office. Early August, Guido Bellido, Castillo's prime minister, was sent to end a strike by peasant communities located in the province of Chumbivilcas against MMG Las Bambas, a Chinese mining giant. Bellido was able to pacify the peasants and secure a suspension of their strike that allowed the shipment of copper to China to continue. The prime minister's revelation that the peasant's demands “are not easily resolved,” treacherously sums up the betrayal of their struggle.
Notwithstanding Castillo's political inconsistencies the Perú Libre will possibly play a progressive role in the region. Peru will withdraw from the Lima Group, which was created to overthrow President Maduro and produce regime change in Venezuela. Argentina and Mexico have already withdrawn from the Lima Group, causing its influence to diminish. Another area of foreign policy that Castillo is considering is the closure of U.S. military bases in the country and expulsion of USAID. From jumping out of the bed of the Lima Group and countering the OAS (the US-dominated Organisation of American States) it is Perú Libre policy to consolidate the role of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Latin America. These organisations strongly oppose the US hegemon and seek to increase Latin American unity and independence from imperialism.
History is replete with the well-known trail of populist and social democratic parties offering their nations' oppressed and exploited peoples the hope of change. Then once these parties get into government the people see their hopes dashed by these same social opportunists who kow-tow to powerful oligarchs and corporations. This is a salutary lesson to the people about who really runs the country. Under capitalism and imperialism political parties only win the office of government; power always stays with the capitalists and imperialists. These parties in effect become minders and arbitrators for big business.
The anti-imperialist fight back in Latin America has made some gains and should be supported, however they are limited because of the hesitancy to completely remove capitalist relations of production from their countries. This challenge will ultimately fall on Communists to carry out this revolutionary task by developing and leading extra-parliamentary struggle.
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