PERU: Scaremongering dominates elections


Stuart Munckton

The second round of the Peruvian presidential election was dominated by a ceaseless campaign, backed by the corporate media and the United States, of scaremongering about a supposed plot by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to interfere in Peruvian politics and control the country. The run-off was between former president Alan Garcia and the fiery nationalist Ollanta Humala, who was portrayed as Chavez's puppet. The BBC reported on June 6 that, acording to an offical count, Garcia won over 53% of the vote.

Garcia ran a notoriously corrupt and brutal government from 1985-90. A June 8 report pointed out that Garcia "presided over a seven percent drop in GDP growth and consumer hyperinflation which, in 1990, reached 7,482 percent". Garcia also "failed to bring the military and guerilla groups under control, despite implementing constant states of emergency across the country". The military committed serious human rights abuses during his reign.

The campaign, led by Garcia, of accusing Venezuela of trying to dominate Peru reached a ridiculous level when, on June 1, Moisss Boyer came forward to claim he was a Venezuelan soldier who had been given money by Chavez to destabilise Peru, according to a June 3 report. The Venezuelan government strongly denied the allegations, claiming Boyer was never a Venezuelan soldier and was a known mercenary. The Peruvian media revealed that Boyer has lived in Peru for years and has been employed at a restaurant by a leader of Garcia's party and worked as a bodyguard for a congressional candidate in the last elections who was a Garcia ally.

There is no evidence that Venezuela in any way interfered in the election or provided material support to Humala. Chavez did make comments expressing his opposition to Garcia after the latter ran a sustained campaign baiting him and claiming he was interfering in the election. However US officials regularly comment on the internal affairs of other nations and, unlike Venezuela, frequently back such comments up with funding, training and other forms of direct assistance to their favoured candidate. Washington could not conceal its glee when Garcia triumphed: the Washington Post trumpeted in an editorial on June 3 that this was a defeat for "Venezuelan imperialism".

But it is not necessarily a straightforward victory for the US and the neoliberal policies it pushes. Humala was always primarily an indigenous candidate who appears to have largely failed to break out of this mould and appeal to other sectors of the oppressed. In the second round, Humala largely retained his base amongst important sections of the impoverished indigenous population, but didn't find the additional sources of support he needed to win.

Even so, it shouldn't be forgotten that he came from next-to-nowhere to come first in the initial round with over 30% of the vote, leading to a run-off between himself and the second-placed Garcia. He did so against the hostility of the mainstream media, which largely denied him a voice. In this light, his electoral success can be seen as a sign of the depth of hostility towards neoliberalism among an important section of the population. On top of this, Garcia portrayed himself as anti-neoliberal. The vote was far from a vote of confidence in US imperialism or the neoliberal policies that have impoverished Peru.

The Western media blaming Humala's defeat on supposed "Venezuelan interference", and then presenting the election as a defeat for Chavez and his goal of uniting Latin America in opposition to US domination, is extremely simplistic. No doubt the anti-Chavez scare campaign assisted, but Humala carried his own baggage that made broader sectors of the population wary about backing him. reported that the former army officer was dogged through the campaign by "unconfirmed allegations that he was involved in — or at least aware of — human rights abuses when he was an intelligence officer in Madre Mia in 1992".

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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