Presidential elections in Peru

New Face for a Rotten State

Revolutionary Worker #1107, June 17, 2001, posted at

We received this article from the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru.

On June 3 Alejandro Toledo was declared the winner of Peru's run-off election for president. This election is a key part of the attempts by the reactionary rulers of Peru and their U.S. imperialist backers to stabilize their oppressive setup in Peru by putting a new "democratic" face on the government.

The Peruvian rulers and the imperialists had seen the situation in Peru spin dangerously out of their control with the fall of former president Alberto Fujimori and his CIA-connected right-hand man, Vladimiro Montesinos. Now, they are declaring the election of Toledo a "victory for democracy." Toledo, with his Indian roots and "humble" background, is being promoted as someone who is different from the other politicians of the discredited ruling establishment. But Toledo is still a representative of the exploiters and oppressors who rule Peru--and his election will bring nothing good for the masses of Peruvian people.

The Fall of Fujimori and the Rulers' Crisis

Through most of the 1990s, the U.S. imperialists considered the Fujimori regime an effective defender of their interests in Peru. But by last year, infighting within the Peruvian ruling class was greatly intensifying and coming to the surface. In July Fujimori and Montesinos used open fraud and intimidation to steal the presidential election. Soon, things began to fall apart for this U.S. puppet.

The election touched off large protests in Lima and around the country. Thousands took to the streets of Lima and torched six government buildings, including the Bank of the Republic. This outpouring of rage was not only in response to the blatant corruption and fraud surrounding the elections--it also revealed broad hatred of and opposition to the ten years of dictatorial rule by Fujimori.

In 1992 Fujimori, Montesinos, and the military had seized absolute control of the state through their "self-coup." On this basis--and with the firm support of U.S. imperialism--the Fujimori regime unleashed a bloody counter-revolutionary campaign against the Maoist People's War led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). Thousands were convicted of political crimes by secret military tribunals--most are still imprisoned today. The CIA-trained National Intelligence Service, controlled by Montesinos, became infamous for torture and rape of detainees and forced "confessions."

Government troops and death squads carried out massacres and disappearances. One well-known case was the La Cantuta massacre of 1991--when nine students and a professor from a teacher's college were kidnapped, killed, and buried in a mass grave by a government death squad. Several military officers were convicted of the crime, but they were freed in 1995 by Fujimori's general amnesty for police and military.

Such savage methods against the revolution generally met with the approval of the U.S. imperialists and the Peruvian rulers. But as various contradictions within Peru's ruling class began to heat up, the Fujimori regime's position crumbled. A few months after Fujimori declared himself the winner of the July 2000 election, a major scandal broke when videos surfaced showing Montesinos bribing and extorting congressmen, judges, and television stations and newspapers. Fujimori tried to save himself by firing Montesinos, who then fled Peru. But soon Fujimori himself was forced to flee, and he faxed his resignation last November from Japan.

A "Choice" Between Two Ruling Class Faces

The Fujimori scandal exposed every ruling class institution--from the congress to the courts to the media--as thoroughly rotten and corrupt. Since the fall of Fujimori, the Peruvian ruling figures have been scrambling to distance themselves from the previous regime by promising various reforms and "investigations" of crimes under Fujimori.

In this context, Peru's exploiting classes and their U.S. backers hope that the June 3 elections, which Toledo won by a narrow margin, can restore some measure of stability to their system and a façade of "democracy" to the government.

But these recent elections have given Peruvians more reason than ever to distrust the politicians and the system. Alfredo Torres, director of Apoyo, a mainstream Lima political consulting firm, said "I don't think Toledo will have a strong mandate. For a large number of voters he was the lesser of two evils."

In Peru people who are caught not voting are subject to a huge fine--which is a serious burden for poor and working people. But still, about 18.5% of voters stayed home completely on June 3. And of those who did vote, 13% cast blank or spoiled ballots. The New York Times reported, "The level of disenchantment was the voting station in the working class Lima barrio of Surquillo, where it was difficult to find a single voter who was enthusiastic about either candidate." The Times quoted a 48-year-old dressmaker who left her ballot blank: "I voted to avoid the fine; politicians are always promising and disappointing."

The campaign between Toledo and Alan Garcia, a former president from 1985 to 1990, was an ugly display of mud-slinging. Their main issue was who is more dishonest and corrupt. In a televised debate, Toledo accused Garcia of living abroad for the past eight years to avoid prosecution for stealing government funds while president and revealed that Garcia takes medication for a manic-depressive disorder. Garcia in turn accused Toledo of pocketing campaign funds, abandoning a daughter born out of wedlock, and using cocaine while in the company of three prostitutes in 1998.

For the masses, there really was no choice at all. Both candidates made big promises of helping the poor. But both are loyal representatives of Peru's exploiting classes, defending the interests of the big bourgeoisie and big landlords allied with the U.S. imperialists. Both candidates stressed continuing in place the economic and social programs imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which have caused severe hardships and increased poverty among tens of millions in Peru.

During the time Garcia was president in 1985-86, the government and military carried out many atrocities in their attempt to defeat the People's War. More than 2,600 Peruvians were disappeared. In 1986 Garcia ordered the military to assault three Lima prisons and massacre more than 300 revolutionary political prisoners in cold blood.

During the recent campaign, Garcia said he hoped to work with U.S. President Bush to push forward the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and to broaden Plan Colombia. The FTAA would allow U.S. imperialism to further tighten domination over the economies of Latin American countries. And under Plan Colombia, the U.S. is greatly increasing military aid to the reactionary armed forces in Colombia and stepping up intervention in the Andean region.

For his part, Toledo tried to use his Indian ancestry and his childhood poverty to claim he is a man of the people. But Toledo has credentials as a loyal lap-dog for the U.S., including training in the principles of imperialist globalization at the elite Harvard and Stanford Universities. He was an executive at the World Bank and ran a business that specialized in advising multinational corporations in the best ways to exploit Peru's people and maximize profit.

Toledo's main economic advisor is Pedro Kuczynski, who commutes every few days between Lima and Miami, where he manages the Latin American Investment Fund. Kuczynski has held several managerial positions with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Wall Street investors are expressing confidence that with Kuczynski in charge of Peru's economy, their interests will be well represented.

A Real Alternative--The People's War

U.S. bankers and investors may feel that Toledo will represent their interests well. But his election does not represent the interests or the will of millions of oppressed people in Peru.

Peru is a country where conditions cry out for revolution. Half of its 26 million people live in extreme poverty. Only 1.5 million people have adequate employment, out of a work force of 12.5 million. Every year about 32,000 children under the age of five die of malnutrition and poverty.

As the PCP has analyzed, the basic cause of these problems is the rule of the comprador bourgeosie and big landlords and domination of imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism. In 1980 the PCP initiated the protracted People's War--aimed at overthrowing the thoroughly rotten state and liberating Peru from the grip of imperialism.

The revolutionary base areas organized by the PCP in the countryside through the People's War have given a glimpse of a new society. These are areas where poor peasants join workers to organize communities with a whole new and liberating way of life. People join together to collectively organize the economy and other aspects of life. Women are no longer raped or abused. Education is organized in people's indigenous languages.

Despite all that the imperialists and the Peruvian reactionaries have thrown at them, the PCP continues to persevere in the liberating path of People's War. The Peruvian media reported on military actions by the PCP during the election period (see accompanying box).

The Maoist People's War in Peru continues to be of great concern to the U.S. imperialists. During the June 3 election, an official delegation led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was in Peru to "observe." Albright said, "It is of concern to the United States...if a country is able to run itself so that there are not areas that are not under the control of the government..." She was voicing worries about the continuing People's War and the ability of the Peruvian rulers to stay in control and defend U.S. imperialist interests.

The PCP called on the people to boycott the recent elections. In a 1985 document, the PCP explained their view of bourgeois elections: "The people cannot serve their exploiters and oppressors, cannot help them solve their problems, cannot endorse their social system--to say nothing of electing another government that will bring more hunger and cause more genocide." This analysis remains very relevant today.

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