Thu Jul 25, 2024
July 25, 2024

Peru | The regime of bullets and hunger must fall

In just a few hours over the course of a few days, nearly 50 people have been killed a another hundred have been seriously wounded. In various points across the country, the Boluarte government, after declaring a state of emergency, curfew, and the suspension of fundamental rights, has ordered to shoot against the demonstrators. Under this pretext, protest leaders are being arrested and the police are raiding homes and premises. This violent response on the part of the government inflames the country more and more. We will only see the end of this violent uprising with the fall of the regime embodied by the murderous Boluarte and the hated Congress, who masquerade in the halls of power to defend the capitalist order being deeply questioned today by those taking the streets.

A reactionary government

The repressive response on the part of the government was evident from the first day the protests began in December. On the 16th of that month, in Huamanga, Ayacucho, the state killed 11 protesters. The second round of peak violence, which began – or restarted – in the first days of January, added 18 new victims in Juliaca, Puno.

This violence and repression is not an accident or error. There has been and there is a systematic policy aimed at drowning the protest in blood in the style of the old dictatorships to defeat the claims and aspirations of those who fight and defend their own. Those responsible are the classes in power whose interests are embodied by Boluarte and the Congress.

After each massacre, Prime Minister Alberto Otárola and President Dina Boluarte have emphatically declared that they will not back down in their decision to “reestablish order,” and have called on their supporters to “have confidence in the action of the Armed Forces and the National Police,” that is, in the repression.

Thus, the only thing we can expect is more of the same as we have been seeing for weeks: more deaths, more repression… and more struggle. Until we defeat them.

Somehow, the regime and the repressive policy it deploys are sustained by the urban middle classes, beneficiaries to varying degrees of the neo-liberal model and anesthetized by the official discourse built since the electoral campaign against the “terrorist” threat. This characterization is now revived with the claim that those who fight are subversives, and that what is at stake here is to “defend democracy.”

This is a weakness of the present struggle, as is also the lack of an organized presence of the working class, although it or part of it is joining the struggle as it spreads and deepens. The central union was forced to call a National Strike for Thursday, January 19.

But at the same time, these are pending tasks because they go hand in hand with the absence of a revolutionary program and leadership that unites the exploited classes with the working class, and makes it possible to win for its ends part or segments of the middle sectors.

These characteristics of the current struggle make it similar to the one waged in the southern region in the 50’s and 60’s of the last century, with the massive land seizures that confronted the oligarchic regime of the landowners of that time. 

Their lies and our truths

As in every opprobrious act, the regime accompanies its repressive action with a mountain of lies aimed at delegitimizing the struggle. For example, the lie that the current struggle is the product of subversive groups financed by drug trafficking and illegal mining. More recently, they have said that the uprisings are instigated by Evo Morales -who has been forbidden to enter the country-, and that he is trying to let emissaries enter the country with arms. This delirium serves to feed the fear of the bourgeoisie and the middle classes and to justify the repression. But it is an affront to those who fight in a self-determined way, with conscience of their actions and in which they risk the lives of their own children. That is to say: not only are they not listened to, but also insulted and shot at.

If anyone sits down to look at historical episodes to contrast them with the one we are living these days, they will be able to see that the behavior of the classes always responds to the same impulses or interests that motivate them. In the ’50s and ’60s, when the great peasant mobilization was unleashed in the same region of the southern highlands with the seizure of land, the headlines of the newspapers at the time said the same thing: mobs, red subversion, violence… (you can see, for example, the documentary Runan Caycu, on YouTube). As then, the official discourse was also amplified by the media, showing whose interests they defended.

Thus, in order to fabricate their “truth,” the media put on the front page the riots that take place (assaults on public and private entities), the death of a child who was being transported in an ambulance when a blockade prevented him from passing, the death of a policeman who burned with his vehicle in response to the massacre in Juliaca. They show the use of handmade weapons, sticks and huaracas with which stones are thrown to indicate that the demonstrators or certain groups are armed. 

It is evident that there is violence and unrest that no one celebrates. Precisely these facts show the massive and popular character of the protest, its almost uncontrolled and spontaneous nature, and the anger that motivates it.

Otárola says in this respect: “they should protest as some hundreds of people in Lima do in the streets of Miraflores: in a peaceful and orderly manner…” Those who demonstrate in the interior know perfectly well that their claims will never be heeded in this way.

Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, centuries of oppression, exploitation and abuse exploded with land seizures. These were not done by marching as in Miraflores but by burning haciendas, kidnapping and sometimes killing landowners and confronting the police. And this happened not because someone planned it, but as an escalation and a consequence of the violence with which the state responded.

Violence generates violence. What we are experiencing now is also a product of the chronic violence suffered by the poor majorities, which has been accentuated in recent years.

Chronic poverty and the enrichment of a few

“The average income in 5 of the 7 regions that make up the southern region are lower than the national average of 1,327 soles per month. In Puno, for example, the average income is 805 soles per month, the second lowest in the country.” In addition, in these regions more than 40% of the population does not have adequate access to education, health nor housing.

Poverty in the countryside was not solved by agrarian reform and land distribution. The agrarian reform put an end to a parasitic caste, on the one hand, and on the other, it transformed the peasants of the Andes from semi-servile peasants into small landowners in chronic poverty. It transformed them into modern “citizens” with the right to vote but who would be eternally poor.

Hence, after handing over the land to the peasants, the Andes became a bastion for the emergence and action of Sendero Luminoso in the 1980s. Only the long neoliberal wave that began in the ‘90s and had its peak in the first two decades of this century was able to trickle something for these sectors until the cooling of the economy that began in 2014. The dawn of the crisis would be aggravated with the Covid-19 pandemic, which claimed the highest death rate in the world in Peru and also led to the ruin of the popular economy in a country where more than 70% live in so-called informality. And the subsequent food crisis (2022) would place more than half of the Peruvian population with a lack of sufficient food (according to the UN), especially in the poorest regions.

However, unlike the 1950s, which was a period of bankruptcy and led to a period of reforms, and the 1980s, which was another period of bankruptcy that also led to neoliberal reforms, this time the economy is working, albeit at a slower pace. But for the rich. They did not stop earning for a minute, not even during the pandemic.

Thus, the crisis has only served to deepen inequality, making Peru an example of profound social inequality in the world.

This, added to the institutional corruption that could put an end to the last glimmer of confidence in the parties and institutions of the bourgeoisie that emerged after the installation of democracy in 2000 who at the same time were the executors of the neoliberal policies that accentuated inequality, led the impoverished majorities to elect Pedro Castillo as president. He presented a program of reforms alongside lukewarm nationalism, but inspired the firm hope in the impoverished masses of seeing their dreams of achieving justice come true.

But the bourgeoisie, accustomed to not sharing profits or distributing wealth, but on the contrary, dedicated to fattening itself with the perks of the model, unloaded against Castillo and his followers all their hatred just as the oligarchs of the last century did against the peasant rebellions and their leaders. That is why, in spite of all that was said and is said about Pedro Castillo, and all the disastrous results of his government, even disappointing popular expectations, those sectors supported him. They did not believe nor do they believe in what the mass media says. And before his ouster, what they saw was the consummation of the unabashedly announced coup. They even saw the hullabaloo unleashed by the enemy majority in Congress.

Hangover or rebellion?

That is why the popular anger was unleashed, and it arose in the poorest localities of the interior where the loyalty and identity with their leader Castillo was total. But from above, the protest was seen as a passing event. Otárola even referred to it as “the hangover” and predicted that, given its marginality and the enormous power of the institutions (with the support of the Congress) and among them the armed forces and police, it would be controlled in a few days. And with the massacre at Huamanga, Otárola thought that the necessary lesson had been inflicted.

Thus, when the protest was rescheduled for January very few gave it credence. Some well-informed “analysts” even predicted that it would be “a sterile protest” (R. Uceda, 01/08/23, EC). This was of course until the prairie began to catch fire. The protests were answered with bullets left and right. And the fire was responded to by pouring more and more gasoline on it.

With the massacre, the only thing they have achieved is to ratify, before the eyes of those who struggle, who are their enemies and the interests they defend (the multinationals and big capitalists). Not only because they respond in the same way as their oppressors and exploiters always do, but also because they show their utter disregard for their lives by opening fire at them.

They kill their best sons who are not terrorists at all. The peasant leaders who fought for the land mid-century suffered the same: Eduardo Sumire, leader of the Peasant Federation of Cusco, was imprisoned, tortured and harassed more than 70 times. The same happened to Saturnino Huillca. Hugo Blanco was arrested, tortured and sentenced to 25 years in prison. And none of them, not one of them, was given reprieve for a single minute in their just struggle. Many died fighting, as they do now. And the only thing that all this produced was to confirm in their leaders and in the masses that their struggle was legitimate, and they hardened until they won.

In Cusco, on January 12, in another confrontation, Remo Candia Guevara, president of the Peasant Federation of Canas who had arrived in the city at the head of his people as part of the protest, was shot dead. In Juliaca, on the fateful January 9th, Carlos Monge Medrano, a young doctor who was helping those wounded by the shooting unleashed that day against the protest was also shot and killed. Another of the victims was a simple ice cream vendor.

These are the children that the people mourn. These are the “terrorists” painted by the government and its acolytes.

The most incredible thing in all this is the hypocritical way in which the authorities express themselves, exacerbating the hurt and pain of those who struggle. Boluarte broke her silence asking for a false “pardon” because at the same time she blamed the facts to alleged hooligans and called for “peace” while ratifying the continuity of her repressive policy. Otárola does not perform any better: he says that law and order comes first and then lives, that those under attack are the National Police and the Armed Forces and not the demonstrators. And, he even asks that they “investigate” where the bullets come from, which he suggests are not be from the state but from Bolivian agents who have infiltrated the country.

Thus, the government’s identity with the right could not be more manifest. The day after the Juliaca massacre, the right-wing majority in Congress gave a vote of confidence to the Otárola cabinet, to the sound of intemperate cries of the latter in favor of “order,” revealing the alliance that sustains the government. Nobody defends more and better the government and the policies it develops than the right wing, the businessmen and the big press. Those who fight know that these are their enemies.

Change something so that everything remains the same

However, this tremendous popular struggle and the costs entailed has only motivated small changes in government policy. First an early election was announced for 2024. Now, pressured by the social fire underway, the dominant sectors are pushing for the end of this year. The decision is not easy because the Congress is the one who must approve it, and in it the majority of the center-right, with the support of renegades from the left who do not want to give up their power, believe that they should not back down in the face of the protest. And all of them, with the most radical wings of “democracy” in front of them, propose that Boluarte and the Congress be maintained to “guarantee” a more or less orderly transition. That is, a Morales Bermudez-style transition: a dictator who, after the great revolutionary wave of 1977-1978 where he ordered a ferocious repression, made an electoral calendar for the orderly withdrawal of the Armed Forces to their barracks, and complied with it thanks to the collaboration of bourgeois parties such as the APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) and the PPC, which do not exist today.

After the bloodshed that bathed the country, the feeling is unanimous: down with Boluarte and the Congress; that is to say, down with the regime. Nothing will alleviate the current struggle until these demands are met. Nothing. Both are responsible for the massacres that have taken place and are the incarnation of a corrupt, anti-popular regime that defends the privileges of the rich, capitalists and plunderers of the natural resources that are extracted from those same entrails where the population is still poor and today rebels. And not only must they go, they must be imprisoned.

The fall of the regime should mean the election of a transitional government elected by the same Congress to call for immediate elections.

A similar situation was what happened in 2000 with the fall of Fujimori. Then, we defeated a Bonapartist regime in a democratic struggle in which almost all the parties of the bourgeoisie participated, and which inaugurated a period of parliamentary democracy. This time the confrontation or questioning at the root is of the “democratic” regime with its reactionary or phantom parties. Should a revolutionary triumph take place, it would generate an absolutely weak government, a sort of power vacuum, and would open the way to an uncertain electoral process.

It is precisely this that is feared when today, from above, everyone clings to the skirts of the puppet Boluarte, who, to complete the drama, pretends to be playing a historical role.

For a revolutionary strategy

The fall of the regime would open a chaotic and unpredictable transition, but by the bourgeoisie. Even the Constituent proposal, the most radical of the proposals, at the same time brutally combated by the bourgeoisie and its ideologues and seen by a broad sector of the middle class as akin to the Russian Revolution, would still lead to a bourgeois-controlled transition.

We revolutionaries make our own path at the present moment by raising the democratic banners in the current struggle: down with Boluarte and the Congress, advance elections, and calling for the elections for a Constituent Assembly.

But, the real way out is not to revive what is dead or almost dead. It is not to revive bourgeois democracy, which is the political regime of the bourgeoisie and which the majorities in struggle have already discovered as the false mask of their exploiters and oppressors. It is necessary to raise an authentically workers’ and popular alternative, which is truly democratic and capable of carrying out the changes that are needed, such as nationalizing the mines, the oligopolies and the lands in order to plan the economy and orient it to resolve the needs of health, education, housing and services. This is a workers’ and popular government.

This is our banner and this is our strategy. How to materialize it? Against the moribund regime of the bourgeoisie, another de facto power has risen, that of the impoverished masses in struggle. This power must be centralized and organized. Now our task is to win the demands put forward. And tomorrow, after the victory, to resolve the question of power by raising, from the organized power of the workers and the people, that we take it into our hands. 

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