Will Wikileaks flap impact Peruvian elections?

Wikileaks is the gift that keeps on giving, a cornucopia of surprises for politicians and statespersons worldwide.

Now it is Peru’s turn, as this South American country of 28 million people heads for national elections on April 10.

In the runoff phase of the last presidential elections, in 2006, the candidate of the center-left Peruvian Nationalist Party, Ollanta Humala, had built a solid lead over right-wing opponents. Then a short while before the elections, a story was circulated in Peruvian media that while Humala had been an army officer in the 1990s, during the war between the government of Alberto Fujimori and the Maoist “Shining Path” rebels, he had been responsible for human rights abuses against the civilian population. Humala was subsequently exonerated by an investigation, but the scandal was enough to knock him out of first place in the presidential race, and he lost to Alan Garcia of the venerable APRA (American Popular Democratic Alliance) Party.

APRA was founded in 1924 by populist politician Victor Raul Haya de la Torre. In his time, Haya de la Torre was considered such a radical firebrand that the military moved several times to block his imminent election by means coups d’état. But APRA long ago morphed into an establishment party which supports neo-liberal (free trade) policies.

APRA’s Garcia had been president of Peru from 1985 to 1989 but his administration had racked up such a record of corruption and abuse, not to mention raging inflation, that it was seen as a minor miracle that he could make a comeback in 2006.

And true to form, the Garcia administration has squandered any goodwill that accompanied it into power in 2006, especially by its heavy handed methods of trying to browbeat indigenous Peruvians in the Amazonian regions into accepting the rape of their lands by outside mining, oil and logging interests.

Now the latest set of Wikileaks documents made available to the Peruvian daily El Comercio show that in 2006, numerous prominent anti-Humala politicians, including the interior minister of former President Alejandro Toledo, had been popping in and out of the U.S. embassy in Lima, evidently requesting help from the Bush administration in stopping Humala.

Though the content of the cables released so far is suggestive rather than providing a smoking gun, it does show the degree to which politicians in Peru see the U.S. embassy as the “go-to place” when left-wing forces appear to be near to taking power.

And more cables relating to Peru are due to be released.

As for the elections themselves, Humala is running again, as the candidate of the Nationalist Party and the GANA PERU (Peru Wins) alliance.  He is supported, also, by a left wing bloc of parties including the Peruvian Communist Party, the Socialist Party of Peru, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and others. 

Peru’s other Communist Party, Patria Roja (Red Homeland), initially supported another social democratic party, Social Force, for the presidency, but the latter rudely repudiated this communist support.

Patria Roja expresses some doubts about Humala, whose program they see as vague and whose military officer background they mistrust, but may well end up supporting him also. 

Under Peruvian law, a president can not serve two consecutive terms, so Garcia’s APRA put forth former Economics Minister Mercedes Araoz as their candidate, but she has withdrawn due to internal differences with other APRistas. The “Alianza por el Gran Cambio” (Alliance for Big Change) Party has put up former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who has strong connections to international mining interests and Wall Street, as their candidate. He is also far behind in the polls.

Doing much better are Keiko Fujimori, the 35 year old daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori, the candidate of Fuerza 2011, and Luis Castañeda Lossio of the National Solidarity Alliance, as well as ex President Alejandro Toledo of Alianza Peru Posible. These are all considered right wing candidates who support neo-liberal policies of “free” trade and privatization.

However, voters’ opinions are still in flux and there could be changes. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the two highest polling candidates will go into a runoff.

Humala, who opposes neo-liberal policies including the new U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, and would bring Peru closer to the left-center bloc of South American governments, is in fourth place. But as more Wikileaks are revealed, it remains to be seen if this will produce surprise results.

Photo: From Peru with peace. (CC)




Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.