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Perú’s Presidential Election: An Agenda For Ollanta Or Keiko

Written by Dr. Maria Velez de Berliner
April 26, 2011

On his way to the House of Pizarro (Perú’s Presidential Palace) Ollanta Humala seems to have converted to Socialismo à la Lula.  On the same path Keiko Fujimori apologized for the crimes of her father’s dictatorship (she called it authoritarian government).  On 5 June Peruvians will decide which conversion is less doubtful, or for some, more credible.  But critical doubts remain as to how either Humala or Keiko will govern Perú, where there has been admirable progress, alongside the perpetuation of profound structural deficiencies, economic polarization, and advancement inequality. Ollanta Humala did not spring “out of nowhere” to lead in the polls, 46% to 36% as of 25 April.  He was there all along.  But the Peruvian establishment, political analysts, and Latin America’s punditry did not probe at the underbelly of Peru’s remarkable growth and market opportunities of the last decade.  According to IPSOS, “men over 25, rural voters, and popular sectors” are behind Humala’s lead.  Humala’s “surprise” happened while Perú’s establishment was lost in their assumptions of continued, unfettered growth, as long as mining exports grew, and an emergent middle class basked in its gains, paying little heed to what happened in the “other” Peru, where the majority lives. Meanwhile, the poor in shantytowns and the countryside kept waiting for an equitable distribution of gains.  The “Peruvian Miracle” trickled down, but not as deep or as widespread as Humala’s supporters expected. No one can deny the accomplishments of Perú, from the groundwork of insurgency defeat by Alberto Fujimore through the macroeconomic management of Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia.  The “Peruvian Miracle” produced average growth of 7% from 2000 through 2010; almost 9% in 2010.  FDI poured into Perú without significant increase in inflation, thanks to pent up demand and the need for modernization of the mining sector.  But, in the same way that elections do not democracies make, investment does not create development, although the financial and managerial capital it brings are a necessary condition for it. Therefore, Perú gained in investment but lost in development.  Yes, poverty declined since 2004, but 10 million, 30% of Peruvians, remain in extreme poverty.  Many of them live in shantytowns or rural areas without access to potable water, sanitation, effective legal employment, schooling, and healthcare facilities.  Despite the commodities boom, 60% of the labor force remains trapped in the informal economy. Many claim Perú’s return to being the largest coca producer in the world results from the success of the war on drugs in Colombia and unabated demand in the USA.  Although both premises can be debated, Perú’s return to the cultivation of coca, heroin poppies, and to processing and sourcing drugs, is a symptom of the dislocations created by the upsurge in expectations of economic rewards from the commodity boom, and the accompanying lack of opportunity to access them legally.  While new buildings and upmarket boutiques gleam in Lima’s financial and commercial centre, along with luxury restaurants and clubs, only 0.2% of GDP goes to science and technology and just 2.7% goes into education, placing Perú 151st among other countries.  Average education is 14 years. This means that once the new president is certified by the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (ONPE) he or she must: 1)    Honor all of Peru’s international agreements.  Some may need tweaking here and there, but wholesale renegotiations will harm Peru’s international credibility, and the president’s, too. 2)    Avoid the political allure of industry nationalization, focusing instead on fair investment agreements whose benefits do trickle down to lift the overall skills pool to global standards. 3)    Institute educational reform that includes access and quality, not quantity, at the primary and secondary levels for a majority of Peruvians. 4)    Take direct and constructive action to reduce economic and social polarization. A and B socioeconomic groups, and Limeños in particular,  can’t continue to govern Peru as their God-given fiefdom. This includes credible anti-corruption actions, not photo opportunities of resigning ministers, or traffickers being hauled to jail because their luck ran out, or for political expediency. 5)    Diversify the economy into the industries of the future.  This means innovation based on relevant education and support of entrepreneurship.  Neither Perú nor Latin America can afford the false choice of sustainable development through commodities exploitation and exports.   This development model means that when mineral veins run out, there is little left. 6)    If it is Humala, stay away from the demagoguery of Chavez, Morales, and Ortega.  Their models of social engineering are destructive of the national interest and, in the end, harm the citizenry, with the exception of those in the inner-circle of power who gain through corruption and collusion. 7)    If it is Keiko, do not follow the father’s model of citizens’ security at the barrel of a gun, abuse of human rights, and rampant sale of government favors to the best buyer. 8)    Make the strategic alliances necessary to govern the whole country.  Refrain from presidential politicking.  And, if the opposition has any brains and allows him or her to govern, bring their leaders into the government.  La union hace la fuerza. A Humala whose Gana Perú incorporates some of PPK’s Alianza para el Gran Cambio will have a better opportunity to succeed than a Humala who governs alone.  Keiko could do the same with Fuerza 2011. Negotiation, not confrontation, with the unicameral Congress will be mandatory.  Humala’s 44 legislators and Keiko’s 36 mean neither will have congressional majorities to legislate.  At this time of change, when 38% and 32% of voters claim they would not vote for Humala or Keiko, respectively, and when FDI is, at best, cautious about its prospects in Perú, a legislative stalemate resulting from misguided partisanship would not be in the best interest of all Peruvians.

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