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Peru: Two Years of Ollanta Humala’s Administration

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Aug 7, 2013, 11:24 pm

It would be unfair to state that Ollanta Humala has done a bad job as a president during the first two years of his mandate, although the country still faces several problems to be solved particularly related to poverty and citizen insecurity.

Indeed, under Humala’s management the country has seen stability and relatively civil political discourse amongst the different party powers, and the government has turned against the former leftist Peruvian and International allies. At the same time, it has remained in line with the free market economic reforms.

The Peruvian economy is recognized today as one of the fastest growing in the world, due to the 6 percent rise of the gross domestic product (GDP) during 2012, in addition to the 6 percent growth during the first half of this 2013. Also, last year’s non-traditional exports amounted to US$11 billion; tourism generated US$3 billion; international reserves reached a record of US$66.8 billion (37 percent of GDP), and inflation remained low (2.65 percent).

This economic growth has allowed the Humala administration to create 800,000 jobs and reduce unemployment to under 6 percent, as well as it has allowed the implementation of various social programs for the poorer classes and the reduction of social inequalities.

Nonetheless, Humala reaches his second year anniversary with low popularity levels, with only 32 percent national approval, and facing a downpour of citizen protests similar to the ones affecting the governments of Brazil and Chile these past few months. It is evident that the benefits of his administration have not stopped the Peruvian middle class from strongly manifesting their discontent on the streets of Lima and other cities of the country.

Many politicians and analysts have dismissed the Peruvian protests with arguments that, in my opinion, are conventionally stale and often mistaken. To some, the protests are destabilizing attempts created by leaders of the “betrayed” left, by radical workers unions, or by the Fujimoristas who oppose the current government for not pardoning former dictator Alberto Fujimori. Others think that they are just foolish protests of the unsatisfied emerging classes that follow the fashion of the Arab Spring and the patterns of Chile and Brazil.

A previous event might help better explain the situation — but only to a certain extent. Clearly the CGTP, the biggest trade-union of the country (pictured), along with civil organizations, university students, and leftist parties were present in some of the protests that ended in violence. But if we scrutinize the Peruvian protests we can realize that they have been made by non-politicized, attentive, and vigilant citizens that carefully monitor the actions of the leaders they chose. They were mostly peaceful protests, featuring common Peruvians, mostly young workers exercising their right to protest not only against the education sector and public institutions reforms that they believe, rightly or not, are harmful to their interests, but also for institutional development and the common good of their country.

Hence, the most recent public demonstrations have started after the legislative resolutions of July 17, which named six new judges of the Constitutional Court and three directors of the Central Bank. These decisions undoubtedly came ​​with favoritism and cronyism, which is publicly seen as traditional political management and policy in Peru, and that ultimately benefited corrupt politicians like former congressman and current attorney Alberto Fujimori as well as other members of the so-called “death squads “of the dictatorship.

Thankfully, President Humala, the leader of congress, and alliance parties in parliament rectified this matter. But this is not enough for the future. Popular discontent continues to speak out, and with increasing momentum, to the extent that the government and the political class do not change the way they perform their activities and foster a genuine dialogue with citizens. It is obvious that Peruvian citizens no longer support political compromises, impunity, and corruption in the government. Their outrage will certainly be present again on the streets in the case of political maneuvering contrary to good democratic development.

Ollanta is warned. The change and the economic growth are not enough; the progress and a profound transformation must be given in the political scene, within the public powers and between the government and the citizens. He should consider starting with reform of the outdated system of elections for congressional representatives as well as calling for a truly open national dialogue, not only through parties. Only in that way will Ollantismo continue to have a political chance during the 2016 elections and stop the come back of Fujimorismo or any other interruption created by another leader of the nefarious anti-political movement.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.