OP-ED: Why Humala?

By Eleanor Griffis,
Peruvian Times Publisher ~

Two weeks ago, presidential candidate Ollanta Humala took an oath to abide by a list of 12 conditions that would ensure the defense of democracy and rule of law if he is elected president.

The event was significant but it didn’t get much press coverage, other than that it was “yet another plan.”  Hardly surprising, given that the major press groups are openly rooting for Keiko Fujimori.

But the event was important not only because Humala was willing to publicly adjust his program to more centrist demands and points of view, but because the witnesses to this oath were among the cream of Peru’s intellectual community.

He already had the public support of Nobel writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who introduced the event via teleconference from Madrid, and of close to one hundred leading archaeologists, anthropologists, physicians, economists, former cabinet ministers, artists, and even the country’s leading nuclear physicist (people who industry captain José Chlimper, on Fujimori’s team, referred to as “losers”).

Now, standing in the colonial lecture hall of San Marcos University, Humala gathered even more like-minded leaders as witnesses to demand that he live up to his promise – including film director Lucho Llosa, Accion Popular party president Javier Alva-Orlandini, Peruvian Environmental Law Society director Jorge Caillaux, and psychiatrists of the stature of Saul Peña, Mariano Querol and Cesar Rodriguez-Rabanal. Not to mention Alvaro Vargas Llosa, son of Mario and an outspoken critic of the mindset of most of left-wing Latin America.

This was no rabble of dispossessed malcontents.  These are people who are internationally recognized specialists in their field, many of whom have a deeper understanding than most of us of what Peru is really all about, and who are willing to think outside the box.  With the exception of politician Alva Orlandini and activists such as sculptor Victor Delfin, they are also people who rarely voice their support publicly for any one or other politician.

A few days after this historic oath-taking, the Fujimori campaign did something similar – they surrounded Keiko in an evening fest with some of Peru’s leading surfers, football players, rap singers and dancers.   People who are valid and great fun, but I doubt many of us would seek their advice when it comes to making national decisions.

The driving premise behind the support to Humala is what novelist Alonso Cueto calls “the moral essence.”

Because there may be valid concerns about where Humala is coming from, but there is an absolute certainty as to where Keiko Fujimori will lead us.

To believe that Fujimori will govern us differently to the way her father did is to be very naïve.  I have no doubt she is well intentioned, she is young and saw what damage corruption causes, but watching her in the debate against Ollanta Humala on Sunday made it obvious that she will be no match to the machinery that surrounds her.  Her government team and most of her members of Congress are die-hard Fujimoristas who served in her father’s government and adamantly continue to defend him and his policies, openly threatening the judges who convicted him of human rights abuses and corruption.

And despite her denials of a continuation of the 1990-2000 Fujimori regime, the propaganda throughout the highlands shows Alberto Fujimori standing behind her. Not to mention that the campaign center is just a short walk from ex-President Fujimori’s prison cell, which can quite fairly lead us to believe that the campaign is being run from his quarters.

President Fujimori’s regime is rightfully credited with ushering us into the 21st century (highways, mobile phones, online documentary processes) and of quelling terrorism (although Sendero Luminoso leader Abimael Guzman was caught by a tight investigative police team that suffered budget cuts under Fujimori and had to find funding from USAID).

But his government is also rightfully accused of stealing more than $6 billion, working the drug trafficking and money laundering network to its advantage, and of “black ops” that included phone tapping, blackmail, threats and murder.

Yet it is the insidious corruption on other levels that caused the greater damage. It was a bread and circus policy: Hand out the food and keep them entertained, and they won’t notice what we’re doing in the back.

Buying the editorial line of almost all the cash-strapped TV stations and the tabloid press meant not only a daily barrage of headlines conjuring up fear or bashing someone in the opposition, it also led to a dumbing down that Peru had never seen before and from which we still have not recovered (the comedians are still there and the journalists have come strutting back): once fairly good stand-up comedians became vulgar propagandists who mercilessly mocked and maligned anyone in the opposition, reality and gossip shows were created to lower and numb people’s decency threshold, and TV news shows became vehicles to lie outright, mock, malign and bash anyone and everyone who would not submit to the Fujimori-Montesinos plan.

Reputations were ruined by absolute fabrications, key civil servants who refused to do the government’s bidding were blocked from finding even private sector jobs and had to emigrate. Judges were fired and replaced by temporarily-appointed judges, subservient to the hand that fed them. Members of congress jumped the aisle for pieces of silver. Non-governmental and human rights organizations became four-letter words. And when the government began to fall apart in the reelection of 2000, the Fujimori-Montesinos machine was willing to kill six watchmen in the Banco de la Nacion arson fire in order to place the blame on firebrand Alejandro Toledo.

Even, or maybe especially, leaders in the business community were held prey, either blackmailed or pressured with personal or corporate indiscretions to endorse a government policy or position.  They gave credence to the business world beyond our borders.

Shortly after Fujimori fled to Japan, an Organization of American States team was working closely with the transitional government to pick up the pieces and part of this new government was a rotating multi-sector board, including business leaders, assigned to clean up and design new guidelines essential for moving forward.

It was during this time that a guest speaker at a business luncheon had to leave early to take his turn at this rotating board later that day. A key figure in the mining industry, he apologized to his peers for leaving early, adding with a shrug of his shoulders and a deprecating smirk “for whatever good it will do.”  Cynicism, or toeing the line?

When a leaked video of a junior congressman receiving money from Montesinos blew the ten-year regime out of the water, the acceptance of corruption was so pervasive that a survey in state high-schools shortly afterward showed that an overwhelming majority of pupils said they would accept the bribe, because if they didn’t “someone else would.”

To quote Alberto Fujimori, there was a generalized attitude of “hey, I wasn’t born yesterday” (no soy ningún caído del palto) and “tough luck” (yuca).

None of Keiko Fujimori’s team who worked in her father’s government seem to have any regrets for the way things were done, and they are determined to set Alberto Fujimori free (See Gustavo Gorriti’s Wikileaks story on the 2006 Alberto Fujimori and the Replacement Candidacy).

Fujimori has promised she will not pardon her father – legally impossible for human rights crimes — but there are other ways to seek his release, such as a Constitutional Court ruling to annul the sentence on the argument that the criminal court judges were partial (something of this is in the works, but it has created accusations of pressure and corruption within the Constitutional Court itself), or of finding some contrived “authentic meaning” to some procedure, an argument that Fujimori used for his re-reelection in 2000.

The next question is, then, if Alberto Fujimori is released or given house-arrest status, how long will it be before his jailed military and police generals and cabinet ministers demand their release too.  The fact that President Fujimori’s first finance minister, Juan Carlos Hurtado Miller, has come out of hiding after 10 years must mean something other than he’s just tired of the same four walls.

And Montesinos?  Will he remain placidly in his cell, when he can probably still pull many of the strings of power, if he doesn’t continue to do so anyway?

The current Business Track trial shows that phone-tapping is still alive and well and possibly conducted by those who were doing it 10 years ago.  Why would there not be a library of 1990-2000 videos of the Fujimori-Montesinos era stashed away somewhere, ready to be used as necessary? Fujimori fled to Japan with suitcases of videos, but why wouldn’t there be security copies somewhere?

Neither Mario Vargas Llosa, nor his son Alvaro, nor Peru’s leaders in the scientific, academic and artistic communities are giving Ollanta Humala carte blanche – they are there as referees for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.

If Humala becomes president he will have lots of time bombs to defuse and half the country will be eager to demand their long-denied rights. But the alternative is far worse.  And if democracy, rule of law and human rights are not a priority, the economy will not remain healthy for long.

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  1. GringoPeruano says:

    and not to mention that “More than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilised by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori, an official report has revealed.” see http:// news.bbc.co.uk /1/hi/world/americas/2148793.stm

  2. Eleanor Griffis, If you think swearing to “be good” in front of every left-winger of prominence, the Pope or God himself matters to murdering terrorists you are excruciatingly naïve. I do have some advice for you, Little Red Riding Hood, I don’t think little big girls should, go walking in spooky old woods alone.

    Apparently you think that condemning Keiko by indirect subjective implication, in events that occurred during her youth and outside of her control, and the condemning of Humala by his direct actions in murderous events that occurred in his adult life are equivalent. I wouldn’t want you sitting on any presumably unbiased jury. Obviously you do not have the capacity to be an objective observer.

    Keiko’s integrity and compassion towers over that of Humala’s. She’s not changing or altering her plan with the political winds as does Humala. Doesn’t that alone alarm you!? I prefer, what you claim is, her weakness over the absolute treachery and deceitfulness of Ollanta. Who openly wants to change the constitution that has delivered, to Peru, economic growth that is the envy of the World. And, he wants to tamper with Peru’s free trade agreements. Keiko is an educated woman who will continue with, and enhance, that which has increased investments, reduced poverty and lifted the standard of living for all Peruvians. Keiko has a business degree in the University of Boston and a master degree from Columbia University. And, she has governmental experience. But I have to admit, she has never lead a deadly military coup against the government. Please think again.

    • dejaxsun, so this “governmental experience” you refer to…do you mean her measly five years in congress? Or perhaps you will have to accept that the “indirect subjective implication” that not only was she intimately involved in her father’s regime, but Keiko intended to surround herself with all of her father’s corrupt old lackeys.

      As for the business degree/masters, big deal these things are for sale to those with the cash. Did they teach her how to embezzle in the united states? No need, her father could bestow a PhD on her for that.

      The old man is in prison for a reason. He, unlike Humala has been convicted for corruption and human rights abuses. The best you have is unfounded accusations.

      Clearly it is you with the inability to remain objective. Humala is not a saint, but the thing I love about Fujimoristas is their ability to point the finger at others while they stand on a mound of corpses.

      So Humala wins, and the stock market dives. Big deal, that’s just the rich having a momentary sulk. The reality is that ALL of Latin America is booming. This has more to do with high mineral prices rather than sound economic management. The key now is to try and distribute wealth better (as opposed to redistributing wealth to a personal bank account). No point having a strong economy with a starving majority.

      Peru will now join the rest of South America in becoming more independent of the United States. This is a good thing. If Keiko doesn’t like it, I’m sure she can move back to New Jersey with her husband, I’ve heard the tax laws are flexible.

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