Friday, April 22, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Peru is about to be divided, again. With the vote count nearly complete, it looks like the pre-election polls were spot on: first place is Ollanta Humala and second place is Keiko Fujimori. Exit polls also indicate that their two respective parties, Gana Perú and Fuerza 2011, won the most seats in Congress.
What would an Ollanta Humala presidency look like? Would he live up to his campaign promise to be a more center-left candidate, or would he backtrack on his recent character transformation? The problem is: no one knows. During the campaign, he appealed to the mainstream Peruvian electorate by portraying himself as a political centrist and Catholic conservative, and by shying away from his close ties with Presidents Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales. He has tried to portray himself as more like former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. However, many Peruvians—including several investors—believe this is just a façade. Predictions of an Humala victory have contributed to the biggest jump in the cost of insuring Peruvian sovereign debt in five years and the Peruvian Nuevo Sol has declined by 1.6 percent since March 20. We do know that Humala has said he might try to reform the constitution, redistribute wealth through a “national market economy,” and start a government pension program for the elderly.
And, what would a Fujimori presidency look like? It is possible it would look a lot like her father’s, with the first step being a pardon for Alberto Fujimori who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption. Nevertheless, Keiko Fujimori appealed to some voters because of her father’s record on the economy, anti-terrorism and populism—he frequently gave away goods and services to remote regions overlooked by other governments. Her presidency is not expected to be much different and there is no guarantee that she would adhere to democratic principles.
A runoff between Humala and Fujimori will be very close, as both appeal to constituencies that have felt neglected for the past five years. According to some experts, it will be one of the closest and most polarizing runoff scenarios in years. The election could even get personal because of the conflict between Humala and Alberto Fujimori in 2000, when Humala seized control of a mining town and led a protest against corruption.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts about the first-round election is that it seemed to be less about the individual candidates and more of a referendum on current President Alan García. One thing is for sure: it clearly illustrated the consequences of Peru’s weak political party system. Despite high GDP growth over the past five years, low-income Peruvians have not felt wealth trickle down to them. García’s approval rating was an abysmal 26 percent just before Sunday’s election. In the end, Peruvians voted for two extreme candidates, and chose to stay away from the centrist candidates who are more closely aligned with García. The centrist votes were split between Alejandro Toledo, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and Luis Castañeda—causing a majority win for both extremes. In this case, economic growth was not backed by social reform, and the voters demonstrated their resentment.
Another problem was the lack of strong political parties. One can’t help noticing the striking absence of Fuerza Social presidential candidate Susana Villarán, despite her Obama-esque mayoral campaign. Moreover, APRA—García’s party—failed to put forth a presidential candidate and didn’t even endorse one of the centrist candidates until only a few days before the election. As a result, the June 5 runoff is between two last names, not two parties. On that day, Peruvians will tell us which extreme they prefer: left or right.
Friday, March 25, 2011
A new change in British law last year extends the retroactive reach of United Kingdom authorities to prosecute for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Crimes can now be prosecuted for acts committed all the way back to 1991—10 years earlier than the previous cut-off point.
Given this development, a Peruvian man was recently arrested in Yorkshire, England, for allegedly participating in death squads during the Shining Path era. The charge was suspicion of involvement in state-backed death squads that targeted guerrilla movements, mainly the Shining Path. He is being accused of participating in the murder of up to 100 individuals during the period of 1989-1993 and is the first to be arrested under the new law.
The purpose of the law was to cover the actions of individuals who had become UK residents after the genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is suspected that hundreds of suspected war criminals from around the world are living in the UK with apparent impunity.
But the UK is not alone in its ability to prosecute such criminals. The United States has the Alien Tort Claims Act, which asserts that “the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Although the law remained dormant for nearly 200 years, with the increased awareness about and concern for human rights, litigants have recently begun to seek redress more frequently under the Alien Tort Claims Act—including by Paraguayans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Libyans and Filipinos.
Civil war in Peru lasted between 1980 and 2000 and led to the death or disappearance of around 70,000 people. The Shining Path is supposedly responsible for half these killings and government security forces are accused of another third. Although the Shining Path is no longer a threat to Peruvian society, remnants of the group have reinvented themselves as an illicit drug enterprise, rebuilding on the profits of Peru's thriving cocaine trade.
Beyond the recent UK arrest, the most prominent prosecution for crimes during the Shining Path era is that of former President Alberto Fujimori. In 2009, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for ordering abuses included the killing of 25 people by a military death squad. The ruling was controversial, given that Fujimori is still a popular figure among Peruvians and his daughter Keiko is a frontrunner in the Peruvian presidential elections next month. She is expected to pardon her father if elected.However, this recent development in the UK shows that there is a growing international trend for the use of domestic courts to rule on international human rights law. This is a clear warning sign for those that expect to get away with human rights abuses.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Peru has been very busy looking for cooperation in the realm of international commerce. In his remaining months as president, President García is intent on leaving lasting footprints, especially a legacy of free trade. At present, Peru has signed bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States, China, Canada and Singapore. It plans on signing agreements with Japan, the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
While the pact with EFTA is expected to come into force in July, trade with Switzerland will begin this month. Switzerland’s main commodity interest appears to be gold, as Peru's mineral exports to Switzerland amount to about 3.8 billion dollars, while the export value of non-traditional products totals seven million dollars. Other notables in the Peru-EFTA agreement include industrial and processed goods, fish, intellectual property rights, government procurement, competition and investment.
Peru and South Korea are expected to sign an FTA on March 21. Such an agreement is expected to boost bilateral commerce by $7 billion by 2016 and would benefit Peru’s agriculture, mining, coffee and fishing sectors. There is also news that Peru is seeking deeper trade integration with Panama, Chile and Colombia to cooperate with respect to goods and services, trade facilitation and microenterprises. Peru is even undergoing talks with Arab nations.
Bloomberg reports that Mexico’s government is close to reaching a free-trade agreement with Peru. Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said that Mexico currently exports $974 million annually to Peru, which represents 0.3 percent of Mexican exports and 3.4 percent of Peru’s imports—but Mexican exports to Peru would increase to $2.7 billion under an FTA.
Peru’s large agricultural sector is expected to make gains from these agreements; it is already slated to reach $4 billion in shipments this year. Agro-exports have grown by 20 percent in the first two months of 2011 versus the same in 2010. Last year’s total agriculture export figure of $3.2 billion represented a growth of 31 percent over 2009. According to Peru’s development director Luis Torres, demand has increased for Peruvian products in three principal markets: Brazil, China, and the United States. New customs regulations and improvements to the two roads that connect the countries through the Amazon have helped increase trade between Peru and Brazil. France is also a notable partner in agricultural exports, with exports expected to rise by 20 percent this year.
So why are we seeing so much movement recently in the realm of international trade? It is no coincidence that such rapid movement comes months before April’s election. García could see his free-trade agenda threatened depending on who succeeds him. Although anti-free trader Ollanta Humala is in fourth place, his numbers have been rising from 10 percent to 13 percent and he unexpectedly won in the first round of votes in 2006. García has made it clear that he hopes that any incoming administration follow in his footsteps of neoliberalism and is taking steps to ensure that such policies prevail once he exits office by negotiating these agreements in advance. Only in April will we be able to see if his free-trade policies endure.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Authorities in China’s Sichuan province want to increase the number of female law enforcement officers, but with a catch: they must be young and pretty. Authorities in the city of Chengdu said they created the women-only team to “present the soft side” of China’s urban law enforcement officers, known as chengguan, whose alleged abuses of power and excessive force have earned them a bad reputation.The reason for feminizing Peru's transit division of the police is because woman are perceived to be less corrupt. The example in China takes this assumption, that women have inherent qualities that make them great image cleaners for the Police, just a little too far in my opinion.
Monday, October 18, 2010
As a part of Mujeres Unidas, we have organized knitting and embroidery workshops as well as a volleybal tournament for the women of the community. (Volleyball is more popular in Candelaria than soccer). The women began both the knitting group and volleyball tournament about a month ago. We are still working on building our community center, which should be done by December!
About a month ago, one of the mother's in my community asked me to be the Godmother of her daughter. After a long conversation, in which I had to tell her that I am not Catholic, nor had I been baptized myself, she still insisted that I take on the responsibility. I accepted. The following are photos of the baptism from last weekend. The madrina is responsible for the child's moral upbringing as well as to provide any support. The ceremony lasted 2 hours and then the parents hosted a party for the family. The gave the padrino and I a gift of a whole chicken.