World in View: Peru elects Humala

From the new July-August 2011 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

Peru elects Humala

The presidential election in Peru is more important for who was not elected, Keiko Fujimori, than for who was, Ollanta Humala. Fujimori, daughter of the former president who now sits in jail, was narrowly defeated. She had surrounded herself with her father’s advisers, bent on returning Peru to a repressive, rightist regime.

The Indigenous of the mountains, the south and the Amazon, together with the poor workers of the north coast and radical intellectuals fearing a restoration of the dictatorship, united in backing Humala. The entrepreneur class, the urban middle class, racists and rightists–encouraged by the U.S. embassy–fearful of Humala as a radical, even a “revolutionary,” voted for Fujimori.

But who is Humala? Never a Leftist, he is a military man, somewhat a nationalist, and a moderate on Indigenous rights.

Now, the poor and the Indigenous will surely mobilize for their just demands on the economic, social and ecological front. The question is whether Humala is willing or even able to challenge the interests of capital, particularly foreign mining capital. The signs are not encouraging.

On the international front, the U.S. will be unhappy that its right-wing grip along the Pacific Coast, Colombia to Chile, has been weakened by the election. Peru will be looking to deal with Brazil, the U.S.’s South American rival.

However, it will not be Humala who will carry out transformative social changes. Only if the Aymaras, Quechuas and other Indigenous, following the examples of their sisters and brothers in Bolivia, come together with poor workers and the urban poor, plus a more developed Left than currently exists, can the masses find the means to coalesce and push the new president. Only then, can an authentic new beginning be made.

–Eugene Walker

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