Peru: indigenous organizations aim for the presidency
At a May 13-16 People's Summit in Lima, Peru's indigenous organizations launched a a new alliance to defend their collective rights—and win power in the 2011 presidential elections. "We want a political instrument that is different from conventional parties. We are seeking a plurinational state that will include us," indigenous leader Miguel Palacín, the chief organizer of the summit, told IPS.
The meeting, carried out as the Fifth Latin American, Caribbean and European Union (EU-LAC) Summit was being held in Lima, also coincided with the Second Indigenous Summit. The head of the National Confederation of Peruvian Communities Affected by the Mining Industry (CONACAMI), Mario Palacios, told IPS that a congress of indigenous leaders would be held in the coming months to "elect a Peruvian Evo Morales," referring to Bolivia's indigenous president, who gave the closing speech at the People's Summit.
The launching of the political initiative was one of the main actions approved by six organizations, including CONACAMI, at the end of the Second Indigenous Summit, which was attended by representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The strategy, announced in the summit's final declaration is to consolidate a national political project "in alliance with other social sectors."
Palacín, who presides over the Andean Coordinating Committee of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), said that among the campaign's allies is the National Association of Peruvian Coca Producers (CONPACCP), led by Nelson Palomino. CONPACCP has already launched a political party, Kuska ("united" in the Quechua language), with a support base in the southern valleys of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, where it won mayoral elections in seven municipalities. Kuska seeks a new constitution reorganizing Peru as a "plurinational" state that would recognize the country's ethnic and cultural diversity.
There was also dissent at the conference to participation in electoral politics. Tomás Huanacu, head of international relations for the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of the Qullasuyu (CONAMAQ), said that "authentic indigenous people defend their autonomy, and aren't really convinced they should take part in the political structure of the state, because they're against the system." Ayllus are extended family communities of the Andean peoples, markas cover a wider regions, while Qullasuyu is the indigenous word for the highlands of Bolivia and Peru.
Ecuadoran indigenous leader Blanca Chancosa, coordinator of the Dolores Cacuango Training School for Women Leaders, said: "It's not enough to win through to government if we're not organised and haven't enough support from the people and other sectors. We cannot compromise. We have to demonstrate the firmness of our purpose." (Milagros Salazar for IPS, May 29 via Upside Down World)