PERUVIAN Politics A Historic Shift to the Left

September 25, 2007

LIMA, Peru-Although the defeat of the center Right government party. Popular Action, was expected in the April 14 Peruvian presidential elec- tions, few predicted the extent of the opposition victory. Alan Garcia
Perez, the 35-year-old candidate of
the center-Left APRA party. attracted
48% of the vote, just short of the ab-
solute majority needed to avoid a
runoff. His opponent in the obligatory
second round will be Alfonso Bar-
rantes Lingan, leader of the United
Left coalition, who received 23% of
the vote. The outcome, a reflection of
disenchantment with the conservative
government and increased political organization among middle and low-
APRA nor the Left has ever held the
presidency. The government's unpopularity was evident throughout the campaign.
Popular Action candidate Javier Alva
Orlandini had little on which to base
his campaign. In the five-year term of
President Fernando Belaunde Terry,
the Peruvian economy has declined
tremendously, with workers taking the brunt of the crisis. Real wages
have fallen dramatically as the annual
inflation rate has surpassed 100% in
the last three years. The exchange rate
on the dollar rose from 200 soles in
1980 to over 9,000 before the elec-
tion. Unemployment has also skyrock-
eted, with well over half of the popu-
lation on the fringe of the job market. The economic crisis was not the
governing party's only handicap. Cor- ruption scandals and human rights
abuses in the battle against the Sen-
dero Luminoso (Shining Path) guer- rilla movement contributed to the
catastrophic defeat. In contrast to the
467 which Beladnde gained in 1980, the uncharismatic Alva Orlandini
barely reached the 5% required for
Popular Action to continue as an offi-
cially recognized political party. The pro-business Popular Christian Party (PPC), conscious of discontent
with the government, broke its four- year alliance with Popular Action
months before the elections. Despite a
very expensive campaign, the conser- vative message of LuIs Bedoya failed to gain adherents outside Lima's mid-
dle and upper-class neighborhoods, drawing only 12% of the vote. In his last televised speech, the candidate
warned that if APRA or the United
Left were to win, "we would lose the
freedom to move about as we wish, to travel within Peru or abroad, and we would lose the right to choose
our children's' education freely." Be-
doya's scare tactics were apparently
ineffectual.
Appealing to the New Peru
The APRA leadership recognized that the April elections presented a
long-sought opportunity to overcome historical frustrations. The party has been Peru's largest and most or-
ganized since the l920s, yet has nev- er been able to win and hold on to the presidency. It began as a popu-
list, anti-oligarchic party with a large- ly middle-class constituency. In the
l930s and 1940s, APRA leaders were
persecuted by the military and ruling parties, but eventually forged al- liances with those same groups.
As a result of an almost religious
devotion to the party and its leader,
Victor Raul Haya de Torre, who died
in 1979, APRA had been unable to at-
tract votes among independents and
other non-Apris:as. Popular wisdom held that in Peru there were only two
parties, the Apristas and the anhi-Ap-
ristas.
Thus, Alan Garcia's campaign fo-
cused on extending support beyond the party. Garcia's youth was mar-
keted to appeal to the "new Peru"
REPORT ON THE AMERICAS
Peruvian Politics
A Historic Shift to the Left
er-class groups, signifies an historic
change in Peruvian politics neither
FIsh exports have been hurt by falling prIces and competition
PERU: A TWO-PART REPORT
Peruvian Politics
A Historic Shift to the Left
BY CHARLES WALKER
LIMA, Peru-Although the defeat
of the center-Right government party,
Popular Action, was expected in the
April 14 Peruvian presidential elec-
tions, few predicted the extent of
the opposition victory. Alan Garcia
Perez, the 35-year-old candidate of
the center-Left APRA party, attracted
48% of the vote, just short of the ab-
solute majority needed to avoid a
runoff. His opponent in the obligatory
second round will be Alfonso Bar-
rantes Lingdn, leader of the United
Left coalition, who received 23% of
the vote. The outcome, a reflection of
disenchantment with the conservative
government and increased political
organization among middle and low-
er-class groups, signifies an historic
change in Peruvian politics-neither
APRA nor the Left has ever held the
presidency.
The government's unpopularity
was evident throughout the campaign.
Popular Action candidate Javier Alva
Orlandini had little on which to base
his campaign. In the five-year term of
President Fernando Belatinde Terry,
the Peruvian economy has declined
tremendously, with workers taking
the brunt of the crisis. Real wages
have fallen dramatically as the annual
inflation rate has surpassed 100% in
the last three years. The exchange rate
on the dollar rose from 200 soles in
1980 to over 9,000 before the elec-
tion. Unemployment has also skyrock-
eted, with well over half of the popu-
lation on the fringe of the job market.
The economic crisis was not the
Fish exports have been hurt by falling prices and competition
I Appealing to the New Peru
The APRA leadership recognized
that the April elections presented a
long-sought opportunity to overcome
historical frustrations. The party has
been Peru's largest and most or-
ganized since the 1920s, yet has nev-
er been able to win and hold on to
the presidency. It began as a popu-
list, anti-oligarchic party with a large-
ly middle-class constituency. In the
1930s and 1940s, APRA leaders were
persecuted by the military and ruling
parties, but eventually forged al-
liances with those same groups.
As a result of an almost religious
devotion to the party and its leader,
Victor Raul Haya de Torre, who died
in 1979, APRA had been unable to at-
tract votes among independents and
other non-Apristas. Popular wisdom
held that in Peru there were only two
parties, the Apristas and the anti-Ap-
ristas.
Thus, Alan Garcia's campaign fo-
cused on extending support beyond
the party. Garcia's youth was mar-
keted to appeal to the "new Peru"-
REPORT ON THE AMERICAS
"governing party's only handicap. Cor-
ruption scandals and human rights
abuses in the battle against the Sen-
dero Luminoso (Shining Path) guer-
rilla movement contributed to the
catastrophic defeat. In contrast to the
46% which Beladnde gained in 1980,
the uncharismatic Alva Orlandini
barely reached the 5% required for
Popular Action to continue as an offi-
cially recognized political party.
The pro-business Popular Christian
Party (PPC), conscious of discontent
with the government, broke its four-
year alliance with Popular Action
months before the elections. Despite a
very expensive campaign, the conser-
vative message of Luis Bedoya failed
to gain adherents outside Lima's mid-
dle and upper-class neighborhoods,
drawing only 12% of the vote. In his
last televised speech, the candidate
warned that if APRA or the United
Left were to win, "we would lose the
freedom to move about as we wish,
to travel within Peru or abroad, and
we would lose the right to choose
our children's-education freely." Be-
doya's scare tactics were apparently
ineffectual.
the extremely young electorate. The
party's slogan. "Our commitment is
with all Peruvians." was intended to
soften APRA'S sectarian image, stak-
ing out ground between the conserva-
tive parties and the Left. Yet to ap-
pease APRA members. Garcia pushed
his role as the political heir to Haya de
Ia Torre. even adopting many of the
politicians mannerisms.
Garcia presented very vague plans and priorities and refused to debate
the other candidates, in recognition of
his huge lead in the polls. His ambigu-
ous social democratic tone reflected
the different tendencies within the
party. One sector calls for closer ties
to the Left and a return to the radical
program of the 1920s, while another
emphasizes a pro-business course. Al-
though Alan Garcia is generally as-
sociated with the more conservative
tendency, he succeeded during the
campaign in uniting the different fac-
tions.
Small Budget Hampers Reform
The United Left's campaign was
hindered by divisions within the al-
liance and the difficulties that Alfonso
Barrantes has had in his three years as
mayor of Lima. The coalition is made
up of diverse leftist parties ranging
from a recently incorporated move-
ment of progressive businessmen to
the far l.ctt. whose calls for negotia-
tions with Sendero Luininoso were
considered treasonous by the conser-
vative press. Lima is one of Latin America's
most chaotic and rapidly growing
cities, and reform efforts have been
hampered by a minuscule budget and the constant opposition of the Be-
launde government and much of the
press. Barrantes has been unable to come up with rapid solutions to
Lima's myriad problems: municipal workers' salary demands: accumula-
tion of trash in the streets: generally
insufficient city services.
The mayor did fulfill his campaign
promise to provide free milk to school
children, a program which grew out of
the Left's collaboration with local or-
ganizations in the poorer sections of
the city. Support in middle-class and
some lower-class neighborhoods de-
clined in comparison with the 1983
municipal elections, yet the 23 won
by the Left can hardly be interpreted
as defeat. The four-year-old coalition
attracted nearly twice as many votes
as the PPC, a testimony to growing
support from unions, neighborhood
organizations and intellectuals.
Barrantes has formally conceded in
recognition of Garcia's clear triumph,
but a runoff will be held just to fulfill
constitutional requirements. APRA
won control of both houses of parlia-
ment and does not need to enter into
any alliances.
Blackout Postpones Recount
APRA's victory and a second place
for the United Left is a setback for the
other major force in Peruvian politics.
Sendero Luminoso. The movement's
calls for a boycott and efforts to sabo-
tage the vote were largely unsuccess-
ful. Absenteeism was lower than in
previous years and voting was dis-
rupted in only a few Andean districts.
Sendero did grab headlines after the
election by bombing several electrical
lines, blacking out Lima and postpon-
ing the recount. And in late April,
Peru's top election official. Domingo
Garcia Rada. was seriously wounded
in an ambush.
While Sendero clearly represents a
stronger organization than the govern-
ment purports, the movement appears
to be stagnating. Support in the coast-
al cities is not growing and the mili-
tary has largely stifled advances in the
central Andes. The new government's
first year is.crucial for the fate of Sen-
dero Luminoso. if Alan Garcia re-
mains popular and the Left continues
to represent a cohesive opposition,
there will be little room for Sendero to
expand. But if the economic situation
continues to worsen andior the mili-
tary were to assume a political role,
Sendero's enrollment efforts could
succeed.
APRA itself has been giving mixed
signals on its strategy toward the guer-
rillas. Some party leaders have ac-
tively criticized the armed forces'
human rights abuses in the "emer-
gency zone" while others have called
for a rapid "military" solution.
The opposition victory was an un-
ambiguous rejection of the BelaOnde
government and its handling of the
economy, in particular. The widely
read daily La Repablu'a referred to the
election as Popular Action's "fu -
neral." The two most common terms
used to describe the current economic
situation are "crisis" and "disaster."
The government cites a long list of ex-
cuses: the inherited foreign debt, slug-
gishness of the international econ-
omy. a decrease in the prices of Peru-
vian exports, natural disasters (floods)
and Sendero Lurninoso.
But critics place the blame on Be-
laUnde. His government attempted
monetarist stabilization policies, deal-
ing a heavy blow to domestic industry
with a sweeping import liberalization
drive. Transnational investors, re-
strained during the reformist military
phase of the early I 970s, were once
again given carte blanche in major ex-
port sectors such as oil and mining.
Strikes have increased throughout the
country in 1985 as the minimum
wage, earned by approximately half the working population, is now down
to the equivalent of $40 a month.
Independence day, LIma, 1984
MAY/JUNE 1955 5
the extremely young electorate. The
party's slogan, "Our commitment is
with all Peruvians," was intended to
soften APRA's sectarian image, stak-
ing out ground between the conserva-
tive parties and the Left. Yet to ap-
pease APRA members, Garcia pushed
his role as the political heir to Haya de
la Torre, even adopting many of the
politician's mannerisms.
Garcia presented very vague plans
and priorities and refused to debate
the other candidates, in recognition of
his huge lead in the polls. His ambigu-
ous social democratic tone reflected
the different tendencies within the
party. One sector calls for closer ties
to the Left and a return to the radical
program of the 1920s, while another
emphasizes a pro-business course. Al-
though Alan Garcia is generally as-
sociated with the more conservative
tendency, he succeeded during the
campaign in uniting the different fac-
tions.
Small Budget Hampers Reform
The United Left's campaign was
hindered by divisions within the al-
liance and the difficulties that Alfonso
Barrantes has had in his three years as
mayor of Lima. The coalition is made
up of diverse leftist parties ranging
from a recently incorporated move-
ment of progressive businessmen to
the far Left, whose calls for negotia-
tions with Sendero Luminoso were
considered treasonous by the conser-
vative press.
Lima is one of Latin America's
most chaotic and rapidly growing
cities, and reform efforts have been
hampered by a minuscule budget and
the constant opposition of the Be-
lalinde government and much of the
press. Barrantes has been unable to
come up with rapid solutions to
Lima's myriad problems: municipal
workers' salary demands; accumula-
tion of trash in the streets; generally
insufficient city services.
The mayor did fulfill his campaign
promise to provide free milk to school
children, a program which grew out of
the Left's collaboration with local or-
ganizations in the poorer sections of
the city. Support in middle-class and
some lower-class neighborhoods de-
clined in comparison with the 1983
Independence day, Lima, 1984
municipal elections, yet the 23% won
by the Left can hardly be interpreted
as defeat. The four-year-old coalition
attracted nearly twice as many votes
as the PPC, a testimony to growing
support from unions, neighborhood
organizations and intellectuals.
Barrantes has formally conceded in
recognition of Garcia's clear triumph, but a runoff will be held just to fulfill
constitutional requirements. APRA
won control of both houses of parlia-
ment and does not need to enter into
any alliances.
Blackout Postpones Recount
APRA's victory and a second place
for the United Left is a setback for the
other major force in Peruvian politics,
Sendero Luminoso. The movement's
calls for a boycott and efforts to sabo-
tage the vote were largely unsuccess-
ful. Absenteeism was lower than in
previous years and voting was dis-
rupted in only a few Andean districts.
Sendero did grab headlines after the
election by bombing several electrical
lines, blacking out Lima and postpon-
ing the recount. And in late April,
Peru's top election official, Domingo
Garcia Rada, was seriously wounded
in an ambush.
While Sendero clearly represents a
stronger organization than the govern-
ment purports, the movement appears
to be stagnating. Support in the coast-
al cities is not growing and the mili-
tary has largely stifled advances in the
central Andes. The new government's
first year is.crucial for the fate of Sen-
dero Luminoso. If Alan Garcia re-
mains popular and the Left continues
to represent a cohesive opposition,
there will be little room for Sendero to
expand. But if the economic situation
continues to worsen and/or the mili-
tary were to assume a political role,
Sendero's enrollment efforts could
succeed.
APRA itself has been giving mixed
signals on its strategy toward the guer-
rillas. Some party leaders have ac-
tively criticized the armed forces'
human rights abuses in the "emer-
gency zone" while others have called
for a rapid "military" solution.
The opposition victory was an un-
ambiguous rejection of the Beladinde
government and its handling of the
economy, in particular. The widely
read daily La Reptdblica referred to the
election as Popular Action's "fu-
neral." The two most common terms
used to describe the current economic
situation are "crisis" and "disaster."
The government cites a long list of ex-
cuses: the inherited foreign debt, slug-
gishness of the international econ-
omy, a decrease in the prices of Peru-
vian exports, natural disasters (floods)
and Sendero Luminoso.
But critics place the blame on Be-
lafinde. His government attempted
monetarist stabilization policies, deal-
ing a heavy blow to domestic industry
with a sweeping import liberalization
drive. Transnational investors, re-
strained during the reformist military
phase of the early 1970s, were once
again given carte blanche in major ex-
port sectors such as oil and mining.
Strikes have increased throughout the
country in 1985 as the minimum
wage, earned by approximately half
the working population, is now down
to the equivalent of $40 a month.
MAY/JUNE 1985
The streets of Lima are a testimony
to Peruvians' creative survival tactics. Vendors sell an assortment of items
on virtually every corner while street-
theater groups, fire eaters and singers
perform for spare change. Crime has also increased substantially, with iron
gates now surrounding most office
buildings. Sales of burglar alarms,
locks and weapons are booming.
Residents of the pueblos jOvenes, or shantytowns. around Lima have
demonstrated a more organized. mili- tant approach. Massive marches to
the government palace frequently pro- test the lack of basic services and
the catastrophic economic situation.
Many neighborhood organizations have formed communal kitchens, at-
tempting to provide affordable meals.
The shantytowns are also growing rapidly, as extreme poverty in the
countryside forces thousands of cam-
pesinos to migrate to the cities. As the
residents become organized. they are
joining APRA. the Left and indepen-
dent organizations. APRA also benetltted from the con- solidation of the Left; anti-com-
munism is stronger in Peru than anti-
Aprism. Many conservatives admitted
relief at Garcia's victory over Bar-
rantes. Along with mining towns and
the impoverished southern Andean
provinces, the shantytowns of Lima
have provided the greatest political
support for the United Left coalition.
In light of the increased size and or- ganization of these groups and the
Left's efforts to overcome its own in-
teral rifts, few doubt the political po-
tential of the United Left.
The new APRA government faces a
formidable task. The outgoing admin-
istration. which emphasized its loy-
alty to the international banking sys- tem, has been in arrears for the last
year on payment of the interest on
Peru's $13.6 billion debt. Meanwhile, the working population has been
promised a respite from inflation and
unemployment. The conservative par-
ties will now play the role of the in-
transigent opposition while the possi- bility of the Left and APRA combin-
ing forces looks dim. Despite these
difficulties for the next president, the
first and second place finish of the op-
position parties signifies an historic advance of popular political move- ments over Peru's old-style "creole
liberalism." It was not a vote of pro-
test. Alan Garcfa said the day after the
polling, but a vote of hope.
Charles Walker writes for several
Peruvian newspapers and magazines.

Tags: Peru, Election, APRA, urbanization, Shining Path


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