Election Madness in Peru

Revolutionary Worker #1058, June 11, 2000

Last month's presidential election in Peru featured a U.S.-backed dictator and a U.S.-groomed challenger. By the final vote on May 28 the challenger--Alejandro Toledo--had dropped out, charging massive election fraud by the dictator Alberto Fujimori and his regime. Fujimori claimed overwhelming victory in what was essentially a one-man race. But about a third of the people who voted turned in spoiled or blank ballots. And millions simply did not vote--in a country where failure to vote can result in a heavy fine or trouble from the police.

Anti-Fujimori protests mounted before election day--and continued afterwards. Ten days before the election, Fujimori had to flee a campaign appearance in Ayacucho, in the Andes highlands, when dozens of people shouting "Get out, tyrant" stoned the car he was riding in. On election day, thousands of protesters clashed with police in Iquitos, in Peru's Amazon region. There were many other protests around the country that day--including in the capital city, Lima, where students tried to march to the presidential palace which was guarded by 1000 riot police.

In this election, the usual official corruption and manipulation by the Fujimori regime reached new levels of madness. First of all, Fujimori's bid for a third term as president was a violation of Peru's current Constitution. This was a Constitution that Fujimori himself had imposed in 1993 after he led a military "self-coup" and installed his own Congress and judiciary, in response to major advances by the people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru. When three constitutional judges ruled in 1997 that Fujimori could not run for a third term, he had them dismissed.

Vladimiro Montesinos--notorious CIA operative and the head of Peru's political police--directed a campaign of dirty tricks against the opposition. Hired goons and electrical black-outs disrupted rallies by Fujimori opponents. The tightly controlled TV and radio refused to give time to opposition candidates, and the tabloids ran smear attacks against them. Fujimori supporters forged over a million voter registration signatures. Fujimori used government funds to distribute food and land in order to buy votes.

The Electoral "Choice"-- Another Lackey of Imperialism

The leading candidate against Fujimori was Alejandro Toledo of the Perú Posible coalition. Toledo put himself forward as an "outsider" to Peru's official politics--born poor and with indigenous roots. In reality, he has deep connections to ruling circles in Peru and to the imperialists. He received his doctorate in economics at Stanford University. In the 1980s he served as the chief economic adviser to Peru's Central Bank and the minister of labor. He has worked for the World Bank, the international financial institution dominated by the U.S. He headed a financial consulting business to service domestic and foreign capitalist investors in Peru.

In short, Toledo represents and serves Peru's big capitalists and big landlords--class forces that are closely tied to the imperialists, especially the U.S. imperialists, that dominate Peru. He is basically no different from Fujimori, who was also promoted as an "outsider" when he first became president in 1990.

Toledo's campaign platform promised to stick to the basic course of Fujimori's economic program. As the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP) points out: "What does this mean for the people of Peru? It means that more than 50% of them would continue to earn incomes below the official poverty level.... It means that the government of Peru will continue to privatize Peru's natural and economic resources--selling the wealth and future of the country to the highest international bidder (at a fraction of the value). A Toledo presidency will not provide the Peruvian people with any real resolution to the grinding poverty imposed by the imperialists under the auspices of the IMF and World Bank." (From "Peru Action and News," May 2000.)

Toledo's candidacy was designed to capitalize on the growing hatred for Fujimori among broad masses of people in Peru--and to channel those sentiments toward electoral activity safely within the current system.

U.S. Imperialist Godfathers Step In

The first round of the presidential election took place in April. Under Peruvian law, a presidential candidate winning a majority of votes in the first round does not have to face a runoff. During the first-round vote, early projections predicted that Fujimori was short of a majority and would need to face Toledo in a runoff. But then, the vote count suddenly slowed down. Vote tally sheets disappeared during shipment to the central computer center. Fujimori operatives were caught with pre-marked ballots. The media began reporting that Fujimori apparently had won a majority after all.

This was when the U.S. stepped in. The White House, the State Department, and the ambassador to Peru all declared that there must be a second round of voting. A Lima political analyst commented, "The moment I saw the American ambassador on TV saying emphatically that there should be a second round, I knew there would be one." Several days later, Peru's federal election agency announced that Fujimori had failed to get the 50% needed for a first-round victory.

The U.S. concern is not about "fairness" of the "democratic process" in Peru. After all, these are imperialists who have supported and carried out phony elections, coups, assassinations, and outright invasions all over the world. After Fujimori carried out the "self coup" in 1992, the U.S. imperialists wagged their fingers and talked about sanctions--and then continued to back him and help him carry out a brutal counter-revolutionary war against the Communist Party of Peru and the Maoist people's war.

The real U.S. worry is that Fujimori's strong-arm tactics may further erode support for the regime, even among sections of the ruling classes in Peru, and lead to more instability. The Washington Post spoke openly about the stakes for U.S. imperialism in Peru's election: "Unless the Peruvian public accepts the second round as legitimate, the country could plunge into a version of the same political chaos that has already enveloped neighboring Ecuador and Colombia. Mr. Fujimori has offered a kind of quasi-authoritarian alternative to such chaos; now however his tactics have themselves become a source of potential instability."

More U.S. Maneuvers

Fujimori and his thugs continued their dirty tricks campaign after the first round vote. A few days before May 28, armed men broke into the office of a reporter who had made it known that he possessed a videotape showing Vladimiro Montesinos conspiring with government election officials. The reporter said the intruders tortured him, demanding to know his sources in Montesinos's intelligence unit.

Immediately after Fujimori announced his "victory" in the runoff, a U.S. State Department official said the vote lacked "legitimacy." There was talk in Washington, D.C. of economic sanctions against Peru and other actions by the U.S.-controlled Organization of American States (OAS).

But by the end of the week, the media was reporting that Clinton administration officials were "soft pedaling" their criticism of Fujimori and the election. Once again, the real issue for the U.S. is maintaining "stability" in Peru in order to protect its imperialist interests. The New York Times quoted one administration official: "Peru is such a pivotal country for us....Kissing off Fujimori in any time frame is bad. At this moment, it's particularly acute. We have ulcers over what's happening in Colombia."

The U.S. is preparing to greatly escalate its imperialist intervention in Colombia (see the article "Blackhawks, Pirañas, and Yankee Imperialism" in last week's RW, available online at rwor.org). Increased turmoil and crisis in Peru would greatly complicate the situation for the U.S. in Colombia and the region more generally.

Imperialism Is the Real Problem

Toledo is taking his case to the U.S. and other powers. He is demanding a third round of voting and threatening to continue with "peaceful resistance." Whatever the final outcome of this election madness, one thing is clear: the electoral process offers no real solution for the oppressed people of Peru. This is because the real problem for the people in Peru is not fraudulent elections--the real problem is the old, rotten state power and domination of the country by imperialism.

There is a real alternative, a real path to a liberated future, for the people in Peru--the people's war and New Democratic Revolution led by the Communist Party of Peru.

As the CSRP points out: "No matter who sits in the [presidential] palace, the Peruvian state can only serve the interests of the big capitalist and landowning classes closely tied to imperialism--especially U.S. imperialism. The interests of these exploiters are directly opposed to the interests of the vast majority of the Peruvian people, and replacing Fujimori with some other face, even with one who claims Indian origins, can only mean continuing poverty, brutality, and U.S. domination. The role of the elections is to strengthen and legitimize the rule of the exploiters and oppressors over the people."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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