Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski, 77, has just taken office as Peru’s new President for a mandate lasting until 2021, the year in which the bicentenary of the independence of Peru will be commemorated.
Kuzcynski won a narrow majority, by 41,057 votes (0.25%), in Peru’s presidential election beating the opponent of the Popular force, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former President Alberto (1990-2000), who is currently in jail for crimes against humanity and for corruption. Kuczynski’s election opens a new political scenario, characterized by a centre-right executive branch and the opposition-controlled Congress, whose president is a member of the right-wing populist party, headed by Kuczynski’s defeated run-off rival Keiko Fujimori.
Both groups, however, are favourable to the implementation of the economic model based on the extraction of the natural resources of the country and their exportation abroad. This model is technically called a primary-export one; others call it an extractivist model. In this model the key state responsibility is to promote private investment, which is supposed to generate employment and taxation that are used to meet the population’s needs. To ‘promote private investment’ often means to reduce taxes to big corporation, to reduce environmental regulations, and also to reduce population rights. However Kucyznski and Fujimori disagree seriously in issues related to fighting corruption, minority rights and decentralization of the country. And they also seem to begin to have an important difference in their styles of governing, with Kucyznski`s mood more inclined to dialogue. Kuczynski signed several agreements with the General Confederation of Workers of Peru, teachers, the SEDAPAL (water company), workers, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) in order to gain more votes in the second round of the presidential elections. If Kuczynski really take these compromises seriously, some changes in the neoliberal way of running our economy are to be expected.
In his inaugural speech the new Peruvian President pledged to expand basic services such as schools (with a high quality education), hospitals, drinking and drain water to Peruvians who lack them.The World Health Organization has pointed out that 80% of diseases in developing countries are due to the lack of drinking and drain water. It is estimated that 20% of the Peruvian population and 51,2% of the Amazon population have no access to health care and larger health services. (4) And even when some of these poor people can be visited by a doctor, they then cannot afford medicaments, because of their high cost. According to the third report of the Millennium Development Goals ‘the costs of medications in Peru are among the highest of Latin America and the Caribbean region’. (5)
Kuczynski also promised to reduce the percentage of labour working in the informal sector of our economy. This is really urgent if we want to fight criminal economy. In order to do so he will have to improve the conditions of regular employment to limit the recruitment of unemployed people by criminal groups. Political scientist and sociologist, Julio Cotler denounces that ‘large areas of the territory are controlled by criminal groups that recruit poor people and threaten or corrupt authorities in order to carry out their illegal activities more freely”. (6)
The new Peruvian President also plans to develop infrastructures such as roads, bridges, irrigation systems, electric energy and telecommunications networks, whose productive and social contribution is undeniable. Kuczynski said he wants to eliminate corruption, discrimination and insecurity, fighting with transparency against these historical scourges. Corruption is the use of public assets and the network of relations of the state for private profit. Lawyer Walter Albán, former ombudsman, says that it is ‘a complex phenomenon, with several and different manifestations, which spreads its tentacle throughout the state apparatus and the society’. (7) Corruption is considered by 46% of citizens as the third major issue Peru has to face, since it affects the country’s economic development, hinders governance and affects the ethical health of the nation.
Discrimination is an ancient Peruvian defect. Social relations in the country have often been marked by long-standing racial, ethnic, socio-economic and gender discriminations. Peru is perceived to be the most discriminatory country among those of Latin America: 52% of the Peruvian population thinks there is discrimination in the country, and 50% recognises that we Peruvians ‘are racists’. (8) Basically, the majority of Peruvians perceives that inequality of opportunity and the difference in treatment before the law are a constant in the everyday life of Peru.
Anthropologist and inequality expert Karina Pacheco, points out that ‘the most common forms of discrimination are: disparaging glances, jokes and ironic phrases; selecting candidates for a job not for their skills but for their physical characteristics; unequal treatment before the law; or showing hostility to the poor and the indigenous in places like schools and hospitals. These behaviours deeply affect people who are rejected, abused or discriminated and prevent all citizens from being treated equally and from exercising their rights. All these factors undermine the construction of a society characterized by unity, solidarity and respect for differences; a society, therefore, walking towards the common wealth’. (9)
Although the parliamentary majority is in the hands of the group headed by Fujimori (which holds 73 of 130 seats in the Congress) and President Kucyznski cannot rely on a real political party that supports him, he is expected to be able to carry out several stated commitments, as they do not require new legislation, but just political decision-making and management skills, which Kuczynski’s government seems to have.
Pilar Arroyo R.P.,
Instituto Bartolomé Las Casas
(4) Cf. La Defensa del derecho de los Pueblos indígenas amazónicos a una salud intercultural. Informe Defensorial 169, p.126.
(5) ‘Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros- Sistema de Naciones Unidas’ en el Perú Perú: Tercer Informe Nacional de Cumplimiento de los Objetivos del Milenio (Lima, 2013), p.171.
(6)’La democracia y el Estado en Perú’ en Latinoamérica Análisis, 29 de junio del 2015. Se puede bajar de http://www.politicaexterior.com/latinoamerica-analisis/la-democracia-y-el-estado-en-peru/
(7) ‘Condiciones para una estrategia eficaz contra la corrupción’ en Brújula, octubre del 2007, p.24
(8)Cf. Liuba Kogan, Joanna Kámiche y Patrica Lay “¿El origen socioeconómico y la raza pagan? Un estudio interdisciplinario sobre la discriminación racial y socioeconómica en el ámbito empresarial limeño. El caso de los egresados de la Universidad del Pacífico” en Francisco Galarza (editor) Discriminación en el Perú. Exploraciones en el Estado y la Empresa y el Mercado laboral (Lima, Universidad del Pacífico, 2012) p.140.
(9) Karina Pacheco Medrano Racismo, discriminación y exclusión en el Cusco. Tareas pendientes, retos urgentes (Cusco, Centro Guamán Poma de Ayala, 2012) p. 19.