Why the Peruvian People Need a Revolution

Revolutionary Worker #1011, June 20, 1999

The following is a new "fact sheet" from the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP):

Conditions of the People

  • Half of Peru's 24 million people live in poverty [1]. Many never have enough to eat or adequate shelter. 36,000 children die every year from treatable diseases of poverty [2].
  • The number of people living under the official poverty line has doubled since President Fujimori took office in 1990. Eighty-five percent of Peru's workers lack full-time jobs [3].
  • 48 percent of Peru's school-age children are chronically malnourished [4], and 25 percent under age five suffer stunted growth from inadequate food [5].
  • This misery is being challenged and fought by a revolutionary people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru-PCP (often called Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path). People led by the PCP rose up in 1980 and have been fighting a protracted armed struggle. Based mainly in the countryside, they have organized revolutionary base areas run by peasants, workers, and their allies from the middle classes. Their goal is to eventually take power nationwide and build a new society that serves Peru's people as a whole--instead of the wealthy elite and foreign (especially U.S.) capitalists who dominate Peru today.

    The Land

    The majority of Peru's people are Indian peasants who for generations have depended on the land for survival. But this land has been wrenched away from them through a legacy of domination--from the Spanish conquistadors of five centuries ago, to today's foreign exploiters, led by the U.S.

    Three times the size of California, Peru has large expanses of agricultural land and a wealth of minerals including gold, copper, silver, zinc, lead, natural gas, and oil. Ocean fishing often yields over a million tons of fish per year. Yet people are starving.

  • Most of the rural population has less to eat today than their ancestors did 500 years ago--rarely able to afford meat, eggs, milk or even fresh water. According to United Nations studies, peasants often survive on 400 calories a day--equivalent to a couple of potatoes and a carrot.

    Though many peasants have migrated to cities in search of work, a third of all Peruvians (eight million men, women and children) still live in the countryside, mainly in the Andean highlands and the forested river valleys of the eastern Andes. Many families, even those who own some land, must survive by laboring on larger farms, or by picking up odd jobs in mining, transport, and other services.

  • In the 1970s, land reforms were supposed to give poor peasants greater access to the land. State farm "cooperatives" were set up, but the state merely became a new exploiting landlord, often with the same old local tyrants running things. Control of the land was never truly put into the hands of the people.
  • Just a generation ago, foreign groups and one thousand Peruvian landlords held 70 percent of Peru's farmable land. One landowner held 1.2 million acres while more than 500,000 peasant farmers and their families were surviving on an average of four acres each!
  • Of the peasant farmers in the highlands who still own a few acres, 90 percent live in critical poverty--unable to secure the loans and support needed to cultivate their land [6]. In fact, Fujimori has instituted new laws allowing powerful business consortiums to gobble up lands from impoverished campesinos [7], supporting export crops instead of meeting the needs of Peru's people.
  • The program of the revolution is to seize all the land of the big landowners and foreign capitalists and distribute it among the peasants under a policy of "land to those who work it."

    Cultural Oppression

    Cultural discrimination against the Indian peasants in Peru is a key feature of their oppression. Traditional indigenous clothing and languages are scorned by Peru's elite who view these as signs of ignorance and backwardness. This legacy of Spanish colonial prejudice is relied on and perpetuated in an attempt to justify the way peasants are cruelly exploited and oppressed today.

  • Quechua and Aymara speaking peasants were denied voting rights up until 1979 if they couldn't pass a Spanish literacy test [8].
  • Recent reports from Lima describe growing numbers of indigenous women seeking out back-alley plastic surgeons in desperate (and often disastrous) attempts to look more "European," hoping for a better chance at getting a job [9].
  • Oppression of Women

    Women in Peru face particularly harsh and cruel treatment. Spanish feudal traditions of male domination and patriarchy remain an essential element of social relations-especially in the countryside.

  • A survey in the rural department (state) of San Martin revealed that 94 percent of adult women there had been battered [11].
  • Until 1997 it was legal for men to rape their wives, and if a man raped an acquaintance he could escape punishment by marrying his victim [12]. Rape is also used routinely as a torture and terror tactic against women who are detained by the military and police.
  • In the revolutionary base areas of Peru's countryside, women live free of rape and abuse for the first time in centuries, and are on the front lines of leading and fighting the People's War.

    The Myth of Fujimori's Economic "Miracle"

    Fujimori's government and his economic reforms are designed to serve the interests and needs of U.S. capitalists and a handful of big capitalists in Peru. A former World Bank official admits: "This is a good economy for 5 percent of Peruvians, so-so for 20 percent, and a disaster for everyone else [10]."

  • One of President Fujimori's first actions in office was to institute a brutal program of social cutbacks dictated by the International Monetary Fund-severe austerity measures now referred to as "Fujishock." Food prices skyrocketed 300 percent in a single month.

    Peru's industry, including food and fish processing, metal and oil refining, and the manufacturing of textiles and clothing, remains underdeveloped offering few jobs. Most products are exported to richer countries like the U.S., leaving millions in Peru hungry and unemployed.

  • The government has calculated a survival living standard of $320 a month, but 55 percent of urban workers earn only $85 to $170 a month, leaving their families well below the poverty line [13].
  • Mine workers are hired for only a few months at a time, and paid only $5-9 a day. This exploitation results in booming profits for the mining industry ($2.6 billion in 1997) [14].
  • The mainly U.S.-owned Yanacocha gold mine profited $230 million in one year, while none of the villages surrounding the complex have running water, sewage facilities, telephones or regular electricity [15].
  • U.S.-owned Southern Peru Copper refinery in Ilo caused severe respiratory problems among workers and residents, and ruined local agriculture and fishing by spewing 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air daily (15 times the U.S. limit) [16].
  • Over a million tons of fish per year is exported (as fertilizer, cat food, etc.), yet the workers can hardly feed their children. A young woman describes the horrid conditions: "you're always cold because you're working in water and fish waste...soaked from head to foot...hands full of sores from the fish bones...It's a long time since they promised to give us gloves and boots, but they never have."
  • This kind of super-exploitation is the lifeblood of U.S. domination in Peru. That's why the Communist Party of Peru has declared that "sweeping away imperialist oppression, primarily Yankee," is a major objective of the revolution.

    Migration to the Cities

    As the crisis in Peru grows, more and more people are unable to survive in the countryside and must travel to towns and cities in search of work. The capital city of Lima and its surrounding shantytowns are now home to about one third of Peru's 24 million people. Upon arrival they find more crisis: no jobs, and no services.

  • Nearly 6 million people live without paved roads, drinkable water, or sewage systems. Garbage dumps are carefully raked over for food scraps[17].
  • A 32-year-old taxi driver who works 14 hours a day explained how his family of four gets to eat meat no more than twice a month [18].
  • In shantytowns, hundreds of thousands make their living peddling cigarettes one at a time, or other items on the sidewalks of the city. 90 percent of children work to help their families survive [19].
  • To enforce the current set-up responsible for these conditions in Peru, and in an attempt to defeat the advancing People's War, President Fujimori took dictatorial powers in 1992, backed up by his military and police. Brutal repression, systematic rape and torture of detainees, kangaroo courts, and other harsh measures designed by Fujimori and his U.S. advisors, have been utilized against the people's resistance.

    In the face of all this, the Communist Party of Peru writes in a 1998 document:

    "[The government's] dream was and still is to annihilate the People's War, but despite difficulties and setbacks the People's War is being maintained and advanced, routing reactionary military campaigns and counter-subversive operations... The People's War is the people's road to emancipation and the winning of a new society..."

    SOURCES: 1. New York Times, 7/29/97 2. 1998 Unicef Report, 1996 figures 3. NYT, 4/27/97 4. LatinAmerica Press, 11/13/98 5. 1998 Unicef, 1997 fig. 6. Financial Times, 3/7/96 7. NACLA Report on the Americas, Jul/Aug 1996 8. Los Angeles Times, 4/11/93 9. NYT, 2/15/98 10. Chicago Tribune, 7/9/98 11. Peru Human Rights Report 12. LatinAmerica Press, 7/24/97 13. Latin American Weekly Report, 7/21/98 14. LatinAmerica Press, 1/29/98 15. Covert Action Quarterly, Spring 1997 16. NYT, 12/12/95 17. Reuters, 12/23/96 18. NYT, 6/10/97 19. Peru Human Rights Report

    Contact the CSRP at: CSRP, Box 1246, Berkeley, CA 94701. Phone: 415-252-5786. Fax: 415-252-7414

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