Monday, April 11, 2011

Peru

In the summer of 2008, I travelled to Peru for a study abroad program in which we analyzed how the processes of globalization have affected the mega-city of Lima, the capital and largest city in Peru.  It was a fascinating class, and really opened my eyes to a lot of the injustices and inequalities of this world.  In today's New York Times, we read:
Peruvian voters cast ballots on Sunday in a presidential election notable for the surging candidacy of Ollanta Humala, a nationalist who is critical of the expanding influence of foreign companies in Peru's booming economy.  
But based on preliminary projections Monday morning, with about 69 percent of the votes counted, a runoff election looked likely.  Despite Mr. Humala's sudden climb in the polls in recent weeks, none of the candidates appeared to have the majority needed to win.  
Mr. Humala, who lost a runoff in 2006 against the outgoing president, Alan García, appeared to be leading, with 28.7 percent of the partial count.  But vying for second place, and the chance to run against Mr. Humala in the next round, was Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the imprisoned former president, Alberto Fujimori, with 22.7 percent, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a prominent economist, with 21.7 percent.  
Trailing them were Alejandro Toledo, also a former president, and Luis Castañeda, a former mayor of Lima, the capital.   
A runoff would be held in June.
The rise of Mr. Humala, 48, a former military officer who has played down comparisons with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Ms. Fujimori, 35, who has defended her disgraced father, points to broad discontent with policies that have failed to lift millions out of poverty even as Peru boasts economic growth that is the envy of its neighbors.   
"Ollanta will bring the change we need because there's so much corruption and too much conformism," said Ariel Chunga, 60, a barber who voted Sunday in Lima.  "What can I be scared of?  We have to make decisions even if they are scary.  You can be nervous of getting married, but you still do it."
The results also suggest that symbols of Peru's economic growth that are most evidence to its urban moneyed class, like the construction boom that is reshaping Lima's skyline, mean little to the impoverished residents of the mountainous hinterland who were seen voting largely for Mr. Humala and Ms. Fujimori.   
Castañeda is the greatest disappointment," said Aldo Panfichi, a political scientist at Catholic University in Lima, referring to the city's former mayor.  "The public works of Lima are not visible in the rest of the country; they mean nothing to indigenous groups.  Lima is not Peru."
Lima certainly is not Peru, and many of the people who live in the mountainous and highland regions of Peru look disdainfully toward Lima, the historic capital of Spanish imperialism and seat of the federal government that has enacted policies that have wreaked havoc on the ecology and livelihoods of the indigenous population of Peru.  The city itself is full of enormous contradictions and inequalities, like many urban areas in the world today.



It is my hope that whoever wins the election in Peru addresses the foreign corporate domination of the Peruvian nation, and kicks out the "economic hitmen" like the IMF and World Bank, that have been unscrupulously ravaging the natural resources and beauty of the Peruvian nation for some time now.  


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