Sociologist, columnist of Diario Libre and active militant of the Peruvian Chapter of ALBA Movimientos, Ricardo Jimenez is an indispensable reference when envisioning the path that President Pedro Castillo will take in the coming months of a difficult Peruvian process. We began the interview with him commenting on the power of Castillo’s two initial speeches, both in Congress and in his popular swearing-in in Ayacucho.
By Carlos Aznarez
Published on Internationalist 360°, Aug 7, 2021
Publicado originalmente en español en TeleSURtv, agosto 7, 2021
Translation by Internationalist 360°
It is clear that with Pedro Castillo and Peru Libre we had an electoral option and a leadership that showed no fear of the owners of Peru, who exercised repressive neo-liberalism with an iron fist 40 years ago. Hence we can now say, after hearing and seeing the two speeches and the cabinet appointments, that for the first time in four decades we have a president who is not afraid of the de facto, hegemonic, media, financial and economic powers. These powers have been installed in Peru since Fujimori’s coup d’état and his spurious constitution. I am referring to former President Ollanta Humala, who managed to win the elections under similar conditions to Castillo and overcome all the obstacles that were placed, but in the face of the enormous pressures, challenges and threats that loomed over those who wanted to change the country, in less than six months he ended up betraying them. He even ordered the repression and assassination of his constituents in Cajamarca, due to conflicts with the mining companies. Today we have, and we should celebrate, a president who clearly states that he has come to the presidency to fulfill the program he committed to during the electoral campaign. The first gesture is his pledge to a new constitution, which was the blackmail point of the right wing led by Fujimorism, which was joined by progressive, right wing and middle class sectors of Lima.
Those sectors are the ones that, as soon as Castillo took office, have started to create conditions to overthrow him.
That’s right, he has the first judicial accusation from the right, because he has decided rightfully not to govern from the Pizarro Palace because it was a colonial attack on Andean, indigenous and Amazonian Peru. He has said that he will turn it into a museum. It is not unprecedented, it happened in Mexico with López Obrador and caused scandals in the right wing. Destiny wanted his electoral triumph, overcoming all obstacles, to arrive just in the bicentenary of the independence, and the president wanted to be sworn in in Ayacucho, which is a clear message that he is aligned to the second independence. We have a third gesture, the most decisive and which is now causing the greatest controversy and destabilization attempts, including small demonstrations of the fujimoristas in front of the president’s house and the Palace of Justice, camping out against what according to them “are signs of communist dictatorship”, because the president appointed a cabinet at his own discretion. This is minimal in democracy, it is logical in any government, but here it becomes a scandal for the right wing. What is happening is that after 40 years, they are used to pressuring the President to determine the appointments of the ministers. With serenity and the simplicity that characterizes him, but also firmness, Castillo appointed the cabinet which he believes he needs and this is provoking a “scandal” in Peru.
In this regard: there has been considerable backlash from the right wing and the media against Guido Bellido, the Prime Minister. What is the basis for this media uproar and the campaign of slander that the pro-Fujimori right wing is waging?
Guido Bellido is being denounced by the same right wing in the Peruvian Courts of Justice. It is a ridiculous and spurious accusation for a crime that almost does not exist in civilized and modern countries of the world, namely that of “apology of terrorism”. It is equivalent to the infamous article 8 of Pinochet’s dictatorship that persecuted ideas, which when there was a democracy pact in Chile, the first thing they threw out was article 8. Here this is a legacy of Fujimori’s dictatorship and it persecutes ideas, not conduct, as the universal legal principle. The drastic hegemony of 40 years of neoliberalism in Peru, however, has normalized this law. Even the progressive and centrist leftist sectors accept it as natural, therefore, this apology of terrorism allows such persecutions. I challenge anyone with a minimum of logic to review the trajectory of Guido Bellido, as congressman for Cusco and now Premier of the country, and they will realize that he has no relation or even any support for the Shining Path, the group that took up arms in the 80s/90s. As Bellido himself has always stated, there is disagreement with their actions and how they used the armed struggle. This right wing indulges in these abuses through this retrograde law. This is the pretext, but in reality, what is behind this campaign is that they will not tolerate that Bellido is there and they were not consulted. Also, and this is very important, the rage that can be seen in the right wing, is that they understand, as we do, that we have a President who is not afraid of them.
A President who, speaking in Ayacucho before the workers, peasants and indigenous people, told them that “they will no longer have to come to Lima to resolve their claims”, because he is going to travel around the country listening to what the people have to say. This is an important gesture.
Yes, you hit the nail on the head. If the right wing were really concerned about an alleged apology for terrorism by Bellido, one could understand, but what they are trying to do is to tell the president that he cannot appoint anyone without consulting them, because they have many more reasons to make a fuss about the appointment of the great Héctor Béjar in Foreign Affairs, who without any doubt is the most qualified and specialized person in Peru, with experience and competence in foreign affairs, as the new chancellor. This must be even more scandalous for the right wing because he is a former guerrilla fighter, and a companion of the great poet Javier Heraud, in tthe Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army). Furthermore, he was amnestied during the government of Juan Velasco Alvarado, and worked with the military in the government of Velasco Alvarado trying to build popular power. All this is a motive of hatred for the right wing, and they have tried to sweep it all under the carpet, however, their cannons are aimed against Bellido, because he is from Cusco. Imagine what it is for Peru and for the Peruvian right wing that he is not from Lima. The gestures could not be clearer, the change in favor of the provinces, of the forgotten of Peru, as you say, could not be more clear.
I suppose that Castillo and his colleagues already foresaw what is happening now with these attacks.
This is now a hornet’s nest, where everyone is a little crazy. The truth is that we expected this, we knew it since the metaphorical third round of the right wing in the country. This scandal of more than a month where they refused to recognize the winner of the elections. We knew perfectly well that these attacks, conspiracies, even in the third round, were aimed at blackmailing the citizens, raising the dollar and food prices, causing the stock market to fall. The typical maneuvers that were being applied in Latin America, and that have now reached Peru. This has just begun. The head of the Armed Forces resigned as soon as Castillo took office, and now a few generals of the Air Force have followed. These are desperate gestures, trying to fence off the president. You can review the press not only of the right wing but also the NGOs and sectors of Lima’s middle class that, either out of disorientation or lack of conscience, have joined the destabilizing calls. The calls are very clear, demanding that the democratically elected president should perform, as the other presidents have done, conditioned to the will of the right wing. All nonsense.
What is this issue about parliament having to approve or reject the cabinet chosen by Castillo? They have a month to see whether they like the cabinet or not. Obviously, if in one day they have said all they said, I can imagine all the ranting they will do during the month. Is it likely that the cabinet will not continue?
These are the spurious maneuvers of the fujimorista Constitution, which led the population, fed up with so many maneuvers, to vote for Castillo, since one of his banners is the change of the Constitution. I think there is uncertainty, it is an unprecedented terrain, because in 40 years we have never had a president autonomous from the de facto powers. But one of the probable constants is that the maneuvers of the right wing will discredit the Constitution even more and thus make the population more aware of the need to change it. Notice that the Constitution provides for this strange maneuver whereby the government presents its ministerial cabinet to Congress, to be approved by a majority of 66 votes, if I remember correctly. In case of disapproval, this cabinet is not in force and the president must appoint another one. In this case, the president can maneuver and put in others from the previous cabinet, there is a margin so that the second cabinet is not so different from the first one. Although it may also be quite different. After presenting the second cabinet, the congress returns to this procedure and if for the second time it is rejected, the president closes the congress and calls for elections to choose a new one … . This procedure allowed that months before the elections, the Congress was closed, due to the acute crisis Peru is undergoing. This same procedure is also related to another process promoted by the right wing, which is vacancy due to moral incapacity, a mechanism left by Fujimorism with the clear intention of removing governments they did not like and which has almost no definition. There are difficulties on the part of constitutionalists to explain what moral vacancy is. So, the current reality is that there is a majority correlation in the congress, I think 2/3 of the votes. That is how Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was removed from office, a couple of years ago during a long crisis, with instability and weakness of the institutions. So again the right wing insists on abusing this pro-Fujimori Constitution to try to remove the government it does not like, to obstruct, and it is playing with fire because it opens the possibility that the crisis will be unbearable, unsustainable and evident for wider sectors of the population, as we see it today.
This would imply that the call to change the Constitution must be rushed as soon as possible.
The Fujimorist Constitution lacks a mechanism to create a new one, it is made to perpetuate itself, it includes a Pinochet-style majority mechanism of almost 99% of the Congress so that the population can be called upon. This is so everywhere in the world, Constitutions are designed not to expire. That is their intention. It is rare that the Constitution is open to change. The most democratic and legitimate way out, a path that is difficult to dispute, is to consult the citizens. This is the path that President Castillo is going to take, and we will see whether it will be with the agreement of Congress or not. That is a matter for the constitutional specialists to negotiate. The President has expressed his will to respect the ballot boxes and to proceed in a democratic manner, consulting the population. If the population does not wish to change the Constitution, it will not do so. The Peruvian right wing, which opposes the consultation, displays an anti-democratic vocation. This is curious. The fujimoristas accuse Castillo of being a dictator and a communist and they are the ones who oppose consulting the citizens. Castillo, on the contrary, wants to consult. This is the debate we are initiating, we have to see how the congressmen position themselves. We know that the congressmen of the right wing are also fragmenting, many of them will not want the Congress to be closed as soon as a new government starts. What is certain is that they may say “we are going to let Castillo govern, so that we stay in the Congress, since we are entering the Congress, we are not going to leave”.
Castillo has appointed Pedro Francke in Economy, who apparently pleases to some extent the hegemonic media that attack Guido Bellido so much. How will Pedro Francke perform in this difficult framework?
Pedro Francke is part of the Nuevo Perú party, led by Verónica Mendoza as well as Anahí Durán, who was appointed in the Department of Women’s Affairs. With Pedro Francke they represent the alliance established after the second round, between Castillo and Mendoza, between Perú Libre and Nuevo Perú. There are also other parties such as Juntos por Perú, whose representative in the Congress is Roberto Sánchez, the Minister of Foreign Trade, a great partner, a very well trained and consequently Latin Americanist. There have been meetings between Roberto and several actors, including Alba Movimientos regarding several agreements, and this appointment is very auspicious. Now, what happens with Pedro Francke: New Peru represents this traditional left of 40 years of neoliberalism, which was moderate and not defiant before the right wing, usually concessions were extracted from New Peru, even in the electoral contest. If we think about international policy, the first measure they took was to establish relations with Venezuela and abolish these unseemly legal mamarrachos, but we must remember that Veronika Mendoza did not miss the opportunity to attack Venezuela, to say that it was a dictatorship and such things. The right wing of course looks favorably on Pedro Francke within Nuevo Peru, since he represents the more moderate wing. On the other hand, the Minister of Women, Ahani Durán, is more of the new left. Francke was slow to accept the appointment and when he did, the right took a breath, since for them, it is not important who is president, although ministers are appointed with their agreement. So, the right wing was delighted with Pedro Francke’s delay in accepting the appointment. But it is also true that New Peru is in dispute and I think it is good that the strong leadership of President Castillo and of Peru Libre, marks ground for the first time so they will leave in dispute and say: “I am staying”.
What is the root of the continuous attacks by the right wing and the media on the leader of Perú Libre, Vladimir Cerrón, whom they try to portray as the “puppet master” of Pedro Castillo, the man who “manages” him?
They have identified Vladimir Cerrón, and in that they are right, as the architect of the alternative that has won the elections, the founder of the young cadres, as the clearest and most lucid sector in the changes that have to take place in the country. In this I have no disagreement with the right wing, that is how it is. That is why they have decided to attack him and one of the points is to separate Cerrón, Francke and everybody from Castillo. That is the idea, but they have not succeeded so far, that is why Guido is so hated by the right wing, because he is one of Cerron’s cadres. So far they have failed in that strategy, and hopefully it will continue that way.
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