PUTTING AN END TO MEDIOCRITY IN PERU
Looking at the Peruvian electoral results, there are a number of evident truths that, in the light of day, are painful to see. The first of these is the fact that a large portion of Lima’s upper class, which for several decades supported multiple dictatorships (including Alberto Fujimori’s in the 90s), stubbornly continues to be smitten by authoritarian solutions.
Another is the high percentage of Lima’s population that not only customarily forgets about the miserable socio-economic situation of the rest of the country, but is not even afraid to maintain the status quo and delve deeper into centralization, thereby creating a wider rift between the capital and the provinces, which stems from an inability to recognize the problems of other people. Lima condones the treacherous growth of one sector of its economy and doesn’t bat an eyelash at the cries coming from the rest of the country.
Facing the victory of Ollanta Humala, some of us would like a government that is willing to reconcile differences across party lines. Last night, the parasites of television were already spinning that notion, transforming it into an idea of “reconciliation” with “that 50% of the electorate who would prefer Fujimorism.” If not a fallacy or an outright lie, this is at least a Manichean distortion of reality (half of those who voted for Keiko Fujimori yesterday didn’t vote for her in the first round of elections).
Yes, the government of Humala must reconcile differences. But this entails a negotiation only with the democratic powers of the country, which are those that would guarantee the elimination of any authoritarian risk. What could members of the Fujimori regime contribute to this coalition? What democratic value would be reaffirmed by placing convicts like Alberto Fujimori or his figureheads at the negotiation table?
More than 30% of Peruvian voters preferred Humala in the first round, with his message reminiscent of Lula da Silva’s, with his modern and updated version of the more or less moderate leftist proposal. Another 20%, in the second round, preferred this over a return to dictatorship. Therefore, Humala’s mandate is clear:
He must govern from the moderate left. But he must not, in any way, become either of the two things that most Peruvians have rejected throughout the electoral process: not the routine president who sets out to manage mediocrity without improving either the government agency or well-being of the poorest citizens or without diversifying the country’s economy. Additionally he also must not, in any way, become a domineering violence-monger like Alberto Fujimori was and like, Keiko Fujimori undoubtedly would have been, as the puppet of her father and his mafia.
The election of Ollanta Humala does not make me happy, for sure. There are many other things that would be required for a Peruvian to be happy. But I am convinced that yesterday’s result was a necessary requirement for the achievement of all those things. We would have gained nothing by placing a convicted criminal back in power, directly or through the intermediary of his political heirs.
Maybe those who today splenetically stroll through the streets ofPeru, lamenting the defeat of a criminal ring, will understand this over time. Those people who look at Humala voters with outrage have to understand that the millions of Peruvians who voted for Humala have just saved the dignity of those who did not, at least for the upcoming years. In the future, however, they will need to learn how to save it for themselves: it is unacceptable and shameful that a large number of citizens would try to place the country’s future in the hands of criminals and their party members. That is complicity.
In the Peruvian political spectrum, Fujimorism is not an achievement, but a stain. In the years to come it will seek—because this is all it has left—longevity as a lobbying force. This observation was made last night by Steve Levitsky (1) in a televised interview (and snatched by Jaime de Althaus (2) to consecrate Fujimorism as a long-lasting and legitimate axis ofPeru’s new politics). If that happens, we will be poisoning our politics for years to come.
A political party whose motives are crime, theft, murder, human rights abuses and the subsequent release of the perpetrators—a party that lacks even the decency (or the intelligence) to hide those motives behind the articulation of a system of ideas—is gangrene on an open wound. Or, what’s worse, it’s the festering sign of other rotting wounds: the demoralization of our public stage, the devaluation of our ethical standards, the plummeting of our value systems.
The part of Peruvian society that has democratically rejected Fujimorism, that has mobilized to reject it through the fundamental action of voting as an expression of its will, without orchestrating filthy mudslinging campaigns, without resorting to the tactics of Fujimorism, must not miss out on this opportunity to make crystal clear that Fujimorism was defeated yesterday, by no matter how narrow a margin. In the most crucial election that this generation of Peruvians has faced, the past and potential dictators have been stifled, rejected, put in their place.
That place is not a seat at an upcoming negotiation table. Alberto Fujimori is in prison: that’s where he belongs. Montesinos is in prison: that’s where he belongs. Keiko Fujimori is running to prison to weep on a criminal’s shoulder: that’s where she belongs. The cast of high-handed Fujimoristas who have made their way back into parliament are the undertow of the past, and that is how they must be seen. The next wave will come to wash them away and, in doing so, it will cleanse of us them.
This is a good day. But in the political history of nations, good days don’t ensure the goodness of days to come. Humala has many allies, and not all of them are favorable; he has many rivals—radical or circumstantial—and not all of them will want to cooperate in the construction of a better society. He has many overseers, many who voted for him and pledged their watchfulness: those are the ones who will be most valuable in the long-run. Since inside him, Humala has another even greater rival: the Humala of the past, the one with half-baked ideas and catastrophic plans.
And Humala also has, in Fujimorism, an enemy that’s corrupt in as many ways as one can be corrupt—an enemy who must be seen as a common threat, for those who wish to help Humala and those who hope he builds a government that goes above and beyond our expectations, high or low as they may be. What does he have in his favor? Above all, this: the breath we will take when we see him this July 28th, knowing that his place could have been filled by the terrible ghost of the past, the ghastly phantom of the old regime (3).
We’ve pushed past the first crossroads. May we never again face that threat. Peru deserves a 2016 election without a Fujimori or an Alan García in the second round. Peru deserves serious political parties and has little time to form them. That endeavor should be made chiefly outside of parliament, which for five more years will house the shadows of thuggery, the shadows of cronyism, the shadows of corruption and personal ambition. Now is the time to become a country again, if ever we were one, and to send those who clown around off to join the circus.
Just one more point. Our true revolution will come through education. Peru insists on seeing itself as the country of mediocre hacks like Aldo Mariátegui (4), of scrupulous demagogs like Jaime Bayly (5), of negligent clowns like Raúl Romero (6), of covert propagandists like Nicolás Lúcar (7).
That is not Peru. And if it is, it should not be. Peru must become the country of José María Arguedas, Manuel Gonzalez Prada, Clorinda Matto, José Carlos Mariátegui, César Vallejo, Martín Adán, Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Ramón Ribeyro, Blanca Varela; the country of Unanue, Leoncio Prado, Miguel Grau, Micaela Bastidas, Francisco Bolognesi, Maria Helena Moyano.
Fujimorization killed that country, over a long period of time in which a society of officials forced the country to stay on its deathbed, transforming those images into empty rhetoric and silhouettes in a photo album. Behind those names are the ideas that will redeem us. We must return to those names, to those books, to those examples. We are not a country of nonentities and have no obligation to keep living with so much mediocrity.
Translated by Joseph Mulligan