Peru: extractive industries, popular movements both cautious as Ollanta Humala sworn in

Ollanta Humala was sworn in as Peru’s president on July 28—with his populist base and the resource industries both seemingly afraid of being betrayed. “We’re worried,” said Mario Huaman, head of the General Workers’ Confederation of Peru (CGTP), the country’s largest labor group, which endorsed Humala in the election. “We’ll listen very carefully to what he says in the coming days and see if he shares our views. Then we’ll decide our plan of action, our plan to fight. He promised change.” Similar reservations were expressed by Renee Ramirez, general secretary of the Unitary Syndicate of Education Workers in Peru (SUTEP): “The new government has built up such great hopes that if it doesn’t follow through there’ll be a big divorce. We’re not going to keep quiet. We threw our weight behind Humala but we didn’t write him a blank check.”

Bloomberg reports that these labor leaders are concerned by Humala’s initial cabinet appointments, which seem to indicate a shift to the right. But investors are also being cautious:

Peru’s $153 billion economy expanded 7.1 percent in May from the year before, the slowest pace in 15 months, as businesses cut spending while waiting for Humala to detail his economic plans.

Mining companies including Southern Copper and Buenaventura have said a tax on sales may make the industry less competitive and derail as much as $42 billion in planned mining investment.

Veteran Peruvian activist Hugo Blanco writes in an editorial in his journal Lucha Indigena, “The Development Model of the New Government”:

We are accustomed to many promises not kept by the candidates. We also know of many promises not kept by Ollanta Humala. Nonetheless, we start by saying that we believe loyally in what he has promised: He promised to respect the right of consultation with indigenous peoples before undertaking any action that will affect their territories. This right is inscribed in Convention 169 of the ILO [International Labor Organization], which is Peruvian law at the constitutional level following a vote of parliament.

But the editorial states that whether Humala keeps this promise is linked to the question of the development model he follows, and whether the government under his leadership will continue to “act in concert with predatory corporations”:

Peru is an agrarian country. We have an agrarian culture that has been shaped through 10,000 years. Among other things, we live in what was one of the 8 world centers of the domestication of foods plants. Our ancestors domesticated 182 species, including 3,000 varieties of potato.

This is not because we are more intelligent than others, but because we have the fortune to live in a territory with diverse climates and micro-climates…

There was centralized agricultural planning at the level of Tawantinsuyo [the Inca state], that determined what should be cultivated in each micro-zone, and where people should be sent to cultivate. Communities of the middle altitudes sent part of their population in rotation to the crest of the jungle [ceja de selva] to cultivate coca, and another part to the high puna [alpine plain] a raise alpacas…

All this was destroyed by the European invasion. The forces of Pizarro have the honor to be the initiators of the despoliation of our territory that is now continuing in monstrous form and rhythm by the multinational corporations that have had as their servants each government in turn…

By the declarations of Ollanta Humala, we know that he will continue with extractive “development,” that he will impel mining in the hands of multinational corporations and that he will impel agro-industry, which are both predatory.

As for ourselves, we will continue, as we have until now, defending the Pachamama [Mother Earth] on the side of the native populations that offer their lives for her, continue defending the peasants that are not indigenous, continue defending the urban populations like Tacna and Moquegua that are being robbed of their water by mining…

If we are wrong and Ollanta, inspired by his indigenous name, returns to his roots and compels development based in defense of Pachamama, of Water, and of Life, we promise to engage in self-criticsm, both in Quechua and Castilian.

See our last post on the struggle in Peru

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