Above Photo: Flooding in Piura region of Peru. El Instituto Nacional de Defensa Civil – Indeci.
Peru is facing popular struggle in the wake of a coup which ousted President Castillo.
It must also confront a legacy of political corruption.
National Strike, Day 103
The parliamentary coup that took place on Dec 7th that ousted democratically elected President Pedro Castillo has now passed its 4th month. Over 120 days and there are still no investigations into any of the over 80 deaths, or there are attempts by the prosecution to stall and move investigations to Lima , where protesters say there will be no justice. Though protesters from provincial regions have left the capital city to reassess the struggle from their home territories, more delegations continue to travel to Lima to demand the peoples’ popular vote be respected and to get the coup regime to step down. Though the daily manifestations may seem to have slowed down in Lima, the struggle continues throughout Perú, including in the Piura region that many had abandoned to the Fujimori right-wing. But since the devastating flooding the region has been hit with, the people have not seen any support from the centralized government and have joined the national strike to oust the coup regime.
Alberto Fujimori, dictator of Perú from 1990 to 2000, presided over some of the worst human rights violations in the history of the republic and is currently serving 25 years for the massacres in Barrios Altos and La Cantuta . The right wing dominated Congress has toyed with the idea of releasing Fujimori early. This would only further infuriate the masses on the ground, many of whom were also affected by the violence during the ‘90s. Despite Fujimori’s reign ending in 2000, Peruvians say that the country is still dominated by the Fujimori mafia, led by his daughter Keiko Fujimori, who lost presidential elections on multiple occasions but is clearly governing behind Dina Boluarte.
I spoke to a young labor leader from the city of Piura, who is working in Lima, and dedicated to mass popular education of the Peruvian working and campesino classes.
C.O. – Hi, what’s your name and where are you coming from?
Julio – My name is Julio Cesar, from the city of Piura, but currently struggling here in the city of Lima.
C.O. – Right now, we are living through various crises here in Perú, from the political crisis to social and economic crises. How did we get here?
Julio– More than anything else, a small economic group that has entered and rooted itself via a political group that is the Fuerza Popular party, a political party that since 2011 when they lost elections to this current day, have dedicated themselves to obstruct the work of anyone that got to the Presidential Palace. We saw that with former presidents Kuczynski, Vizcarra, Ollanta Humala, and now recently with Pedro Castillo Terrones. This small economic group only cares about watching over and defending their interests that have been guaranteed by law with the Fujimori dictatorship era constitution from 1993. Fujimori, who is one of the most corrupt politicians in the world, and who was our “president.”
C.O. – What’s happening now in Piura with the rain and flooding? What does the state and municipality do to help the people of Piura, or have they done anything?
Julio– Well, the reality is that many people blame natural disasters for their conditions; “it’s because of the rains that we’re like this.” But we see in other countries that similar disasters can happen, but they don’t suffer the same consequences that our people go through – loss of agriculture, economic inflation that’s a product of this small economic group setting prices. For example, we have horrible public infrastructure in our country. That’s what the interior of our country faces, 200 years of neglect from the centralized republican government, that has not given all the peoples of the country basic infrastructure that would allow them to survive these natural disasters. Not to minimize these natural disasters, but to point out that our conditions are precarious. Imagine, it’s 2023 and people are forced to cross what are essentially rivers when the flooding occurs on a bed of tires or some wooden makeshift boat. There, the state has never guaranteed its presence, there is no healthcare, education, with or without natural disasters, people still have to get in line at the public hospitals at 5 AM to get an appointment or wait in line at the public schools to see if there’s a vacancy to register for classes. So, what conditions do these kids study in? With holes in the wall and very little resources, that’s if the school has a roof, there are some that don’t even have that. Right now, in the rural areas, people must walk two hours to get to their educational centers. The roads aren’t built, cars can’t drive by, there aren’t bridges that connect town to town, that’s the abandonment of 200 years of republic. And because of that byproduct of that small economic and political group that has maintained our country in ignorance and has only served for these elites to keep ransacking our country and the rest remain poor.
C.O.– Who are the transnational corporations present in your area? What miniscule group, as you say, exploit Piura?
Julio– The agro exporters are the biggest presence there. These Arabic companies that have practically taken the desert to exploit and they say, “this will help the people” but how much do they pay the workers there? One sol an hour. And those people have to work 12 hours, from 5AM to late at night. But the media won’t tell you that. They say there is progress and development, but for who? For these giant agro-exporter companies that poison our rivers, that have taken over our lagunas, while the people don’t have clean drinking water, these companies have their own water reserves. And at the national level, there are only 7 families that have almost full economic control of the country- the pharmaceutical industry, real estate, minerals, transport- in other words, there’s a monopoly and what allows this monopoly? The Fujimorista constitution. One of these families is the Rodriguez-Pastor, in the pharmaceutical industry. Those bastards that sold one tylenol normally for 20 cents now for 40 soles. So there exists this monopoly that controls everything and doesn’t care about the pain of the people. Because if they wanted to, we would have food lines again. But because they side with the dictatorship, it doesn’t suit them.
C.O. – Could you speak about the struggle against this in Piura? How are the people organizing themselves against these transnationals?
Julio– There in Piura, as of 10 years ago, you could confidently say that it was a Fujimorista bastion. But in actuality, Piura has grown demographically tremendously, and now who populate those settlements are migrants from the Andes region of Piura, like Ayabaca, Morropón or Huancabamba, that migrate to the city of Piura looking for better opportunities. The same thing that happens here in the capital, where people from the south, from the Amazon, from the coast look for better opportunities. So that happens where the people from the Andes where there was never any development migrate to the city and live in poor urban areas and those people who are rural have a long tradition of being anti-Fujimorista and so that has slowly changed the minds of people from Piura. And today those people are in the struggle. In fact today they told the regional governor of Piura that the next time the government goes to lie to the people of Piura, they are capable of throwing them in the river. So for this region to have voted for Perú Libre, for Castillo, at 40% is a great achievement and proof the people were fed up.
In Piura, there is a project called Rio Blanco, where the state wants to give these companies rights to our basin headwaters because supposedly, they have found more copper and gold and they want to exploit these mineral reserves for the next 30 years for a Chinese company. And obviously if Piura having a desert that currently does not have enough water and charges 2 soles for a bottle of water and see these foreign companies taking over our basins and aqueducts, then of course the city of Piura is organizing because being the second most important city in this country, it can’t be possible that there isn’t enough water, light, that there are more bars than hospitals. It can’t be that we have phosphates, and the farmworker can’t have fertilizers, and so that’s why the people of Piura are organizing because we want to see a change, not for ourselves but for our future generations. It was not that long ago that when Vizcarra was in, he signed a loan with the International Monetary Fund, leaving Perú in debt for the next hundred years. And that money goes to these business owners who fund the media, who fund the political campaigns of their right-wing puppets that have kept the Peruvian people in a state of despair. And so, I want to invite the people of Piura, and of Perú to stay in the struggle, to organize, because just like it was our parent’s generation to fight the first Fujimori dictatorship, now it’s our duty to finish the job and draft a new constitution.
The elites here who have their own mansions and private beaches- they can talk about politics, but you, working person, must work 14 hours driving a taxi or working on the streets but talking about politics, no. But that’s why the people need to be organized, whether it’s your neighborhood councils, parent associations, educational committees, university organizations. There are plenty of ways to organize ourselves and fight back because we must fight. Victory is as close as ever. I will end with this quote by Malcolm X, “If you are not careful, the newspaper will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are oppressing.”