Peru Election 2006

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Humala Supporters Celebrate Victory, While Fujimoristas Continue Hunger Strike

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Maxwell A. Cameron
January 12, 2006

Two radically different political dramas were played out on the streets of Lima today. While supporters of Ollanta Humala anticipated another victory in their effort to overcome legal obstacles to participating in the April elections, the supporters of former president Alberto Fujimori, who has been legally denied the right to run, continued in their hunger-strike and vigil before the electoral authorities.
Jesus Maria
A clamorous scene was observed in the otherwise quiet residential neighborhood of Jesus Maria near the center of Lima. A group of supporters of Ollanta Humala gathered outside the office of the Special Election Board for Lima-Callao as authorities inside deliberated over the merits of the arguments for and against Humala’s candidacy.
Photo: M.A. Cameron
The crowd sensed that the decision would go their way. Yesterday, the Board had decided to reject a similar motion of censure, which had been initiated by lawyer Julio Quintanilla. The mood was expectant, and the crowd demonstrated support for their leader with colorful banners and flags, and chants of “Urgente, urgente, Humala presidente!” Sun hats with “Ollanta Presidente” were de rigeur; the ads for Coca Cola on the visors presumably did not imply corporate sponsorship. The chorus was led by a wiry character festooned with flags and a megaphone strapped above his head. Another chant went: “If there’s no solution, there will be revolution!”
Photo: M. A. Cameron
Moving around, but always at the center of attention, one leader stood out: Dr. Liliana Humala De la Oliva, cousin of Ollanta and lawyer by training. From atop a pickup truck she doled out water to the dozens of supporters scorched by the mid-day sun. Once all the supporters were sated, she moved along the security perimeter established by the police, offering water to the men in uniform. The crowd roared approval with “Police, friends, Ollanta is with you.” Some of the police accepted the water, while other demurred. None dared drink it openly.
Photo: M.A. Cameron
Agreeing to an on-the-record interview, Liliana Humala suggested we use her mobile “office,” the cab of her pickup truck. Flanked by advisors and supporters, we bundled into the cab, occasionally jolted as water continued to be dispensed to the crowd from the back. “The people of Peru are going through a delicate sentimental crisis, she said; they have been betrayed by politicians who have cheated on them. Now they are giving their heart to a new person—Ollanta Humala.” Why have Peruvians deposited their affections in this new leader? “His transparency,” she answered; “we talk naturally, without putting on airs.”
At that moment, an advisor informed Liliana Humala that the decision had been taken: the second censure had been ruled unfounded. “How does this make you feel?” I asked. “The greatest happiness in the world. We are going to win in the first round” she responded. According to Liliana Humala, efforts to stop her leader’s candidacy were backfiring, and providing excellent propaganda for her movement. Who was behind these efforts to block Humala? I asked. “Olivera works with Quintanilla” she said. Fernando Olivera is the leader of the Frente Independiente Moralizador, or FIM, and Quintanilla had run on the FIM congressional slate in 2000.
Regarding the dispute with Michael Martinez, Liliana Humala insisted that the member of congress for the Union Por el Peru had done nothing for the Department of Apurimac, which he represents, and that is the reason Humala asked him, along with all other congressional incumbents, not to run again.
I asked whether Ollanta Humala, should he come to power, would govern with his supporters or abandon them when he took power, to which Liliana Humala responded that people should occupy their posts because they are “competent professionals.” She was chosen to be on the national executive committee (CEN) of her party because, she claimed, she is seen as someone capable of putting things in order and the rank-and-file have identified her as a leader. “I get very angry with the local press,” she said, “for comparing me with Margarita.” Margarita is the sister of Alejandro Toledo, current President of Peru, who has been accused of influence trafficking and of falsifying signatures for the registration of the ruling party, Peru Posible.
“I am a lawyer. I have not met with groups to falsify signatures. This I cannot accept. That woman did nothing, otherwise things would be different for Peru Posible. I am working to create a party like APRA, and to fulfill the demands of the people.” Alan Garcia was a leader, she said, but he has already governed.
Lima Cercado
Not far from the boisterous celebrants in Jesus Maria, a rather sadder drama was unfolding in front of the principal office of the National Election Board. On the corner of La Colmena and Jiron Lampa, across from what used to be the Banco de la Nacion before it was burnt down in protests against President Fujimori’s attempt to be re-elected to a third term in office in 2000, a smaller group of Fujimori supporters were camped. They were on a hunger strike, and some had been there as many as 17 days without service or medical attention.
Photo: M.A. Cameron
Asked what brought them to such desperate measures, they responded that they were all there to support the candidacy of Alberto Fujimori. “We want Fujimorisimo with Fujimori” said one. “We support Fujimori because he did many good things, good works” chimed in another. “He changed the history of the country in 10 years” said a young man in his 4th day without food, to a general murmur of agreement. Warming to the topic, he went on:
“He gave us the opportunity to know a new way of governing, different from traditional politicians who governed as demagogues and ignored the people. Fujimori reached to the farthest villages, bringing basic necessities like schools and medicine. Toledo has done nothing. Before Fujimori there was hyperinflation, terrorism, misery, hunger and chaos. He left the country without terrorism, with peace. He took the country from being unviable to stable. With Fujimori, authority and discipline were restored. This has been misinterpreted as dictatorial.”
“Why are they so afraid?” asked another, with reference to the refusal to allow Fujimori to run. “All we’re saying is he should be allowed to compete.” I asked whether the group thought Fujimori would win if allowed to run. “Without doubt” was the consensus. “People say that to be Fujimorista is to be a thief, corrupt. But there is no proof against Fujimori. There are thousands of commissions, and no proof. The Kroll commission cost $800,000 and not a single sol was found.” The $800,000 is a sum that has been mentioned on Fujimori’s website.
Photo: M.A. Cameron
Another hunger striker, 17 days without food, came forward and asked that his message be conveyed outside Peru: “Don’t send dollars to the NGOs. They are controlled by members of congress, and the help does not reach the poor.” He said he had been threatened by terrorists while on hunger-strike, and drew his hand across his throat ominously.
The animus of the two protests could not have been more starkly contrasting. Yet both crowds had taken to the streets to rally behind leaders facing what they believed were unjust obstacles to their participation in the election process. Obstacles imposed, moreover, by those who fear change. Undeniably, both represent important currents in Peruvian politics.

Written by Michael Ha

January 12th, 2006 at 9:59 pm

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