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April 02, 2006

[NOTE:  The Santa Rosa de Lima, the first Saint to be canonized in all of North and South America is not only venerated by the Villahanons.  There are many other towns in the Philippines which venerate the Santa Rosa as their Saint.  Among the Villahanons, fiesta celebrations in her honor are celebrated all over the world, especially in America and even in Norway.  The place of this Saint in the hearts of the Villahanons is such that even that 8-kilometer provincial road which is being repaired and cemented through the Internet and through Tiklos or Bayanihan is starting to be called "Dalan ni Santa Rosa".

In this article by someone whom I refer to as the "Passionate and Eloquent Adelbert Batica, the Frente Amplio Expert among all the Filipinos", Addi forgot to discuss in more detail the revolutionary attempts of two Marxist groups in Peru -- the Sendero Luminoso which was inspired by Mao and the Tupac Amaru which was Russian and Cuban in inspiration.  Both are gone now.  The leader of the Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, was captured.  He was placed in a cage and was exhibited to the world by his captors. The sad thing: it was he himself who blurted the names of his comrades to his captors.

But it is a tribute to the immortality of pro-people, progressive ideas that the dreams that the Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac Amaru have been fighting for are taking roots all over again.  This time, the leading light of this Movement for a Better Peru was a former official of the Peruvian Military, Col. Ollanta Humala.]

As all of us face more questions as to which way the Philippines is headed in the next few years, perhaps it's worthwhile taking a breather and looking at the experiences of another country to see if there are lessons to be learned.  That country is Peru, one I'm familiar with simply because I lived and worked there for a year, and have continued to maintain my connections with the country in spite of the time that has passed and my distance from it.  My most recent visit to Peru was in May, 2004 - after a 25-year absence.

Some similarities between Peru and the Philippines - both are former Spanish colonies and are predominantly Roman Catholic.  (Caveat:  Although Roman Catholic, divorce is legal in Peru, and the Catholic bishops generally stay out of politics.)  Both countries have experienced periods of instability (coups, insurgencies, authoritarian rule).  Also, both countries have experimented with neoliberal trade policies in hopes of achieving larger scale economic progress, only to find themselves worse off than before.  In 2000, both countries were embroiled in a heated (and oftentimes chaotic) presidential impeachment process.  In November, 2000 Pres. Alberto Fujimori was successfully impeached by the Peruvian Congress while he was on a visit to Japan; he was replaced by a transition government that oversaw the elections of 2001 which saw the rise to the presidency of a Stanford-educated economist (and former World Bank executive), Alejandro Toledo.  In January, 2001, Pres. Joseph Estrada was unseated by People Power II, which also ushered in the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Fujimori's administration was plagued by rampant corruption, participated in by his family and cronies but most especially, by his National Security Adviser who was caught on videotape attempting to bribe some members of congress who were sponsoring an impeachment resolution.  The impeachment proceeding was in danger of being stalled in Congress, but for a non-violent uprising led by the Humala brothers - Army Col. Ollanta, and his younger brother, Maj. Antauro.  The two, together with some 300 military and civilian followers took over a police headquarters and the offices of Southern Peru Mining Company in the Andean province of Ayacucho, Peru's poorest region.  That uprising speeded up the impeachment process, and Fujimori had to seek political asylum in Japan. 

Estrada's government was also brought down by charges of massive corruption, but unlike in Peru, the impeachment process was stalled in the Senate which, in turn, led to the walkout of the prosecutors and snowballed into mass protests, culminating with Erap's exit from Malacanang.

Both Peru and the Philippines, then, saw the rise to power of pro-free trade and pro-WTO presidents.  The two countries are also battling corruption and increasing poverty.  But there's a difference:  while thousands of Filipinos are reported to be leaving the Philippines everyday to seek greener pastures abroad, most Peruvians have chosen to stay put and tough things out.  As far as poverty rates, 50% of Peruvians (at least according to the CIA World FactBook) are said to live below the poverty level, in a country with a total population of about 36 million.  Note that Peru has six times more land area than the Philippines.  According to the CIA World FactBook, 40% of the Philippine population live below the poverty level, in a country with a population of about 87 million people and counting.  Suffice it to say that there are more poor people in Peru than in the Philippines.  At the same time, if we look at the number of Filipinos exiting the country to seek better opportunities abroad, it would seem that the Philippines is in a more desperate situation.

There is overt restiveness within the military in the Philippines, whereas in Peru, the restiveness is not apparent.  The Philippines had a hotly contested presidential election in 2004 that was characterized by massive fraud, and charges of election fraud has continued to plague GMA.  Peru's presidential elections is only 10 days away, to be held on April 9 (Bataan Day).  Peru's constitution provides for a 5-year presidential term with no reelection.  Alejandro Toledo was elected in 2001, and his term is due to expire this summer.

Another difference in Peru that's not present in the Philippines is the meteoric rise of now retired Army Col. Ollanta Humala, a leftwing nationalist and son of political activists (his father is a lawyer and ex-communist, his mother is part of an ultra-nationalist indigenous movement also known as "etnocacerismo", founded in the 19th century by Gen. Andres Avelino Caceres, who was a strong supporter of indio rights and a Peru for indios.)  Col. Humala became an overnight sensation after his failed rebellion in 2000 for which he served a jail term, until he was amnestied by the transitional president in 2001.

With only 10 days to go before the presidential elections, Ollanta leads most opinion polls with a rating of 34.5%, ahead of second-placer Lourdes Flores who scores 27.7%.  Flores belongs to the conservative party, Union Nacional Odriista (founded in the 1950's by Gen. Manuel Odria, who ruled Peru after unseating a civilian president).  Flores is a free market advocate.  In third place is former president Alan Garcia, who registers a rating of 20.6%.  Garcia is a Social Democrat who belongs to the APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance) and who served as president from 1985-90.  APRA started out as a leftwing and Trotskyist-leaning party in the 1930's, but turned right in the 1960's and entered into an alliance with Union Nacional Odriista.  Since the 1980's, APRA has taken centrist positions.  If no candidate achieves 50% of the votes cast, a runoff balloting is conducted a month later.

Ollanta Humala belongs to the Partido Nacionalista Peruano, which is in a coalition with an older party - Union Por el Peru.  He is a Peruvian Military Academy graduate and career officer who distinguished himself in the 1980's and '90s for his no-nonsense military campaign against Sendero Luminoso.  Humala is representative of a different mold of soldier, one who is strongly nationalistic, pro-poor and pro-agrarian reform.  This "tendencia" or school of thought is best represented by Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado, a leftwing general who came to power through a coup and undertook massive social reforms between 1968 and 1974.  Western experts often refer to these Latin American soldier-social activists as "Peruvianists".  Other military organizations in Latin America, including that of Uruguay, have their share of "Peruvianists" or soldiers who try to follow in the footsteps of Gen. Velasco.  Peruvian media see Col. Humala as another soldier who has one foot in the door of the Casa de Gobierno (Peru's presidential palace), but minus a coup.

From a recent interview with Ollanta Humala conducted by the Spanish daily El Pais (Madrid):

(Interview conducted by correspondent Fernando Gualdoni during Ollanta Humala's visit to Tacna in southern Peru, close to the border with Chile.  Addi's translation of the interview from Spanish into English)

El Pais:  "Are you a revolutionary, a populist or a failed coup-plotter?"

Ollanta Humala:  "I'm a nationalist.  I'm a father and head of a family who wants to give the succeeding generations a country with more opportunities."

EP:  "Define nationalism."

OH:  "A State that is morally solid and a model of development, with productive sectors and strong national industries."

EP:  "Are you an 'etnocacerista' (ultranationalist, "Peru for the indios")?

OH:  "I'm not.  No other Humala is involved in my project.  The ideas of my brothers Ulises and Antauro have nothing to do with me.  It's one of the reasons why I sometimes feel so alienated from my brothers and my parents because of the racist content of their opinions."

EP:  "Why do you believe you are qualified to be president, when you have only been in politics for a year?"

OH:  "I'm new to politics, but I believe that's better than being one of these wretched ones who govern us.  I'm not going to entrust five more years of my life (to them), so I'm taking the reins."

EP:  "Is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez your model?"

OH:  "I accept experiences, not models.  I would like to learn more about Venezuela's plan to eradicate illiteracy.  I find Bolivia's process of nationalizing hydrocarbons interesting.  Peru's and Latin America's great historical error has been to believe that an economic model can be imported and applied to different realities."

EP:  "Does your campaign receive funding from Venezuela?"

OH:  "No.  You see it.  Here, each one pays for his hotel and food expenses, and the cars, the little that we have, are contributed by volunteers.  All of this (Venezuelan funding) is invented by the other candidates, because it really pains them, in spite of their having the money, that I'm the one leading the surveys.

EP:  "What do you think of Bush?"

OH:  "I'm simply worried that the government of a country from which we can learn so much, and one that prides itself in being the guardian of the world's democratic values, has now skirted international law and has invaded a country like Iraq, and now faces the bloody consequences of this (invasion).

EP:  "How would nationalism affect foreign businesses?"

OH:  "To nationalize is to put a resource at the service of the people, not a business.  It does not happen through expropriation or statization (state control), but through a larger state participation in the economy."

P.S.  I have a copy of the Plataforma de Gobierno of the Partido Nacionalista Peruano-Union Por el Peru Coalition, but have not been able to translate it to English...yet.  Perhaps I'd be more motivated to translate the platform once Humala gets elected, then I'd have every reason in the world to watch Peru even more closely.  If the guy does well, I'd be happy.  If not, I wouldn't mind sending critical comments to Spanish list serves and media outlets. - Addi

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