Peru. The Left Plays its Card in the Presidential Election

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By Carlos Noriega / Source: Página 12 / The Dawn News / April 4, 2016. A few days before the election, Verónika Mendoza is contending for the second place and could go to a ballotage with Keiko Fujimori. She proposes a change in the country’s model, that “overcomes the logic of indiscriminately giving away our natural resources”.

Days before the election, polls indicate that the candidate of the Peruvian left, Verónika Mendoza, a 35-year-old congresswoman with charisma and a talent to lay out her ideas clearly, has great chances to dispute the presidential seat against Keiko Fujimori in a runoff election. The last polls published over the weekend (Peru’s forbids to publish predictions in the week prior to the elections) forecast a technical tie for the second place between Verónika Mendoza and veteran neoliberal economist and former Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, with a positive growth tendency of the former and a stagnation of the latter. The significant growth of the left-wing candidate in the polls has made her the target of a relentless dirty war —with mass media against her—, that seeks to discredit her with sensationalist remarks that even go to the extreme of calling her a terrorist.

“I feel our vision for change is in syntony with the citizenship. We represent the only true alternative for change, and that’s being valued by people. Dirty war doesn’t affect us”, said Mendoza in a press conference with foreign correspondents.

Mendoza questions inequality and social problems fed by the neoliberal economic model, and remarks that the core of a potential left-wing government will be to change this model, which has prevailed in the country for more than 25 years.

She points out that the Broad Left Front, of which she is part, intends to “overcome the logic that the latest governments has used, which is that of indiscriminately giving away our natural resources without thinking about the short term, in the generation of employment, nor in environmental sustainability”.

Mendoza adds that a key aspect of her proposal is to diversify the economy to end with the country’s dependence on raw materials, especially minerals, which makes the country vulnerable to variations in the international prices. She intends to promote and support other economic areas such as industry, agriculture, and tourism, which, she adds, doesn’t mean to abandon mining, but promoting other sectors as “engines of the economy” in times of the fall in prices of minerals. According to Mendoza, those economic sectors would also create jobs.

The candidate of the Broad Left Front clarifies that she doesn’t propose a state ownership of natural resources or companies, but a “regaining of sovereignty over our natural resources”. “Nowadays, the Peruvian state can’t decide what to do with our resources. For example, companies that exploit gas can do what they want with that resource, and export all of it without the state having a say in that decision. That’s how contracts were made. Therefore, nowadays the government can’t guarantee that there will be enough of our own gas to supply our internal market. We’re going to regain sovereignty over our natural resources, so that the state decides what to do with them, and guarantee that, above all, gas goes to the internal market first, and supplies Peruvian homes. To achieve that, we will renegotiate the gas exploitation contracts”.

Among the measures destined to reactivate a stagnant economy, the Broad Left Front also proposes to give significant impulse to public investment, to lower interest rates, and to raise the minimum wage (from around 250 dollars to around 300 dollars). Mendoza insists in clarifying that she doesn’t intend to nationalize the economy, nor control the prices nor the exchange rate.

The defense of the environment, of the rights of indigenous people, of labor rights, and an open fight against corruption are other key aspects of Mendoza’s project. She also proposes to change the Constitution that the imprisoned dictator Fujimori (father of leading candidate Keiko Fujimori) passed in 1993.

The problem for the left is that, if it manages to win the presidency, it would be without a majority in Congress and would have to govern with a Parliament probably dominated by the right, with strong Fujimorista presence, that would oppose the reforms.

“We would seek to make agreements, and possibly alliances, with some other democratic political forces that are willing to implement some of these reforms”, says Mendoza.

On Keiko Fujimori, Mendoza says that “Mrs. Fujimori has always turned a blind eye to the problem of corruption. She never criticized the corruption that was prevalent in her father’s administration, nor the human rights violations and the sterilization of thousands of peasant women against their will”.

“Keiko Fujimori and the current Fujimorista leaders use the word “mistakes” to define what were, in fact, crimes. And their corruption is not only in the past. Nowadays they buy votes with clientelism- Recently, a Fujimorista congresswoman was sentenced for illicit enrichment, and her Secretary General and financier of the campaign is being investigated for money laundering”.

In the realm of international relations, the Broad Left Front intends to change the priorities in terms of alliances, and instead of privileging the current relation with the Pacific Alliance (Perú, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, countries politically close to Washington and with neoliberal economies), focus on the Andean Community and Unasur, and seek a better relation with the Mercosur and other spaces of regional integration.

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