Peru Election 2006

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Ollanta Humala Speaks with the Foreign Press

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Ollanta Humala met with the association of the foreign press in Peru on Friday, March 31. He answered questions on a wide range of topics. Here are the highlights:
Re-election is not necessarily bad; it can be good under certain conditions. However, the current congress should not be re-elected. When some members of congress make as much as $18,000 dollars while teachers earn 250 Soles, re-election is not positive. Humala declined to state categorically that he would not seek presidential re-election. “Ask me this after April 9” he said. “In principle I am opposed to re-election, starting with me.” Humala also intimated that he favors recall, saying he wants to look at “democratic mechanisms by which they people can remove those who have defrauded their voters.”
Constituent Assembly
Peru needs a new constitution, said Humala, one that does not limit the role of the state in the economy but rather allows it to play a developmental role. The 1993 constitution is a spurious document, one that was created after the congress was closed in 1992. On April 9, the composition of the new congress will be seen. Humala said he would dialogue with all sides and search for the way to create a new constitution. He refused to go into any detail with respect to the mechanics of constitutional change, and denied that he would use Venezuela under Chavez as a model for Peru. He did talk about a popular referendum and said whether this would involve suspending the congress elected on April 9 would not depend on him and that he did not believe this was necessary. At the same time, he did not rule it out.
Humala called Peruvian democracy “virtual, electoralist democracy,” in which there are “electors but not citizens.” Politics has become a “dictatorship of political operators of economic groups.” There is a re-composition of political systems occurring in the region. Ecuador has had three changes of president recently, and throughout the Andean region there have been golpes which have brought presidents down, but none that have succeeded in imposing new leaders. New leaders have entered democratically. There is a new family of democratic forces emerging. The common denominator is that they are progressive forces seeking alternatives to neoliberalism.
Left vs. Right
The distinction between left and right has less and less important, said Humala when asked where he locates himself on the left-right spectrum. “I am neither left nor right but rather below” he said. He argued that the terms left and right made sense in the context of the confrontation of two empires during Cold War. When that ended, capitalist globalization won out and from that point on the new confrontation has been between globalizers and globalized. That is, globalization is perforating sovereignty giving rise to a new force–nationalism. Humala also argued that his conservative adversary does not represent an ideological option for Peru. Rather, Peru’s right is composed of political operators who work on behalf of powerful economic groups.
The Military
Humala argued that military officers who committed crimes under the Fujimori regime should be punished with expulsion from the armed forces. He denied that military are over-privileged, however, saying that some of the benefits they are given (such as free gasoline or travel expenses) compensate for low salaries. He denied that there is anyone in his entourage with links to Vladimiro Montesinos and he characterized the “Vladivideos” as as important as Mariategui’s Seven Essays because they exposed the reality of corruption in Peru, which afflicts not just the armed forces but also the media and entrepreneurial groups. The military needs to restore its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, said Humala, but he also stressed that the military is a popular institution. He said one can search in vain the the barracks for people with last names like Kuscynski, Diez Canseco, Ferrero, or Belaunde.
Taxes and Royalties in the Natural Resource Sector
An Humala government would review all contracts in the mining sector to determine: (1) whether companies are paying their taxes; (2) whether they are paying royalties; and (3) whether they are damaging the environment. Companies that are paying taxes and royalties and are not hurting the environment have nothing to worry about said Humala.
Drug-trafficking and the United States
According to Humala, he is not anti-anyone. His assessment of policies with respect to drug trafficking is negative. There are 300,000 families living off the production of the coca leaf, and they need profitable alternatives. He opposes the forceful eradication of coca production. Peru as a sovereign country has the right to end interdiction flights and to insist that the only military forces on Peruvian territory are the armed forces of Peru.
Corruption and Tax Evasion
Humala calls corruption “the strongest institution in Peru.” Crossing a red light costs 5 Soles. With the right bribes you can move through the Palace of Justice like you were on ice skates. Humala called for the owners of television stations who have not paid back taxes to pay up. “What does it matter is the macroeconomic figures put the country in black when there is no development?” The people, he claimed, are fed up with corruption and laws that are enforced in a discriminatory way.
This should not matter in the 21st century, said Humala. There should not be discrimination against people for choosing a different option. The only thing that he would demand of people in his government is that they be committed to the project and it is unimportant whether they are male or female, black, white or copper-tone, homosexual or not. “I am not homophobic” he said.
The Campaign
Asked what he has learned from 5 months of campaigning, Humala said that he has confirmed that Peruvian politics is a sewer. The people do not believe the candidates anymore, and they realize that in Peru there are divisions, that Peru is a fractured society. At the same time, and on a more positive note, Humala said he has been touched by gifts he has been given by people on the campaign trail. He said he has received notes, poems, small donations and even a crucifix. He also mentioned that at one point he saw woman in a crowd looking at him with eyes filled with hatred and he said this gave him pause to think and then to state in a campaign speech that he does not want to sow hatred in the country.
Humala said that, with all humility, his party is seeking a victory in the first round. The law has given the vote to the armed forces. But mechanisms are being created so that this vote will be impossible. 80 percent of the military will be tied up on election day so that those who will actually be able to vote will be 20 percent or less. It is not enough that soldiers and police have been exonerated from the fine for not voting. The point is they can’t vote. This disturbs the electoral panorama. When something like this happens, it is always “for the benefit of someone” said Humala. The political class thinks it is not convenient for the military to vote. “My perception,” said Humala, “is that the armed forces are highly nationalistic.” The National Election Board has not allowed the UPP to use the word nationalism (in the party label), complained Humala. The authorities have not been impartial in their treatment of his movement, he said. “But in their field, with their umpire, we are going to score big.”

Written by Michael Ha

April 1st, 2006 at 8:03 pm

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