MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Fujimori kleptocracy embraces more copper mining in Peru

Published by MAC on 2021-05-24
Source: Bloomberg, Aljazeera, WSWS

Money would be sent directly to people’s bank accounts, an adviser said.

Keiko Fujimori made it to the runoff with record-low support in the first round of voting – 13 percent – with Peruvians ground down by years of political scandals and a high per capita COVID-19 death rate. Her government would push for the go-ahead of the Tia Maria and Conga mining projects that have encountered community resistance, adviser Rafael Belaunde said to Bloomberg.

According to Peru’s health ministry, 272,028 women were sterilised under the guise of a family planning and population control programme during the 1990-2000 government of Alberto Fujimori, who is now serving a 25-year jail sentence. Keiko has promised to pardon her father if elected. She would also seek to shut down prosecutions, including the sterilisations case. She herself has been accused of laundering $17 million and prosecutors are seeking a 31-year sentence, Aljazeera reported.

See also:

2016-10-15 MAC letter condemns biased report on land conflict in Peruvian Andes
2016-09-19 Peru: Máxima Acuña Attacked Again by Minera Yanacocha Guards
2016-07-31 Peru: A "very difficult social environment" for mining
2015-06-09 Tia Maria is currently Peru's biggest environmental conflict
2015-05-25 Peru: State of emergency declared over Tia Maria

Fujimori Embraces More Copper Mining as She Faces Peru Leftist

Ana Maria Cervantes and Daniela Sirtori-Cortina

May 20, 2021

Peruvian presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori would support energy and mining projects if elected, a campaign adviser said, drawing a stark contrast with her left-wing rival.

Her government would push for the go-ahead of the Tia Maria and Conga mining projects that have encountered community resistance, adviser Rafael Belaunde said in an interview, adding that she wouldn’t seek to renegotiate contracts at the Camisea gas field. Fujimori’s focus is to resolve community issues in order to attract more investment.

The goal is to help “set new projects in motion, with a fundamental component being that the populations -- particularly the populations around the areas where these activities occur -- feel the benefits,” Belaunde said.

Fujimori, who is out on bail for alleged corruption and is the daughter of a jailed former president, will face Pedro Castillo in a June 6 runoff vote that pits two opposing visions for the way out of pandemic-induced economic stress. The election result, which a weekend poll showed is too close to call, will reverberate across metal markets given the world is relying on Peru to help meet growing demand in a clean-energy transition. The nation is the No. 2 supplier of copper used in wiring as well as a major producer of zinc, silver and gold.

Castillo, who defied polls to win the first-round vote, has vowed to nationalize Camisea and raise taxes on mines, as well as seek a referendum on drafting a new constitution. His plans have spooked investors, though he’s likely to face stiff opposition from a divided legislature and has distanced himself from his party’s most hard-line proposals.

A Fujimori administration would channel 40% of the mining canon into payments to communities, Belaunde said. The money would be sent directly to people’s bank accounts and could amount to about 2,000 soles ($540) a year depending on the region.

It would also seek to improve the time-line and communication surrounding the consultation process before mineral exploration and exploitation, Belaunde said. The nation’s current environmental regulations are already rigorous enough, the adviser said.

“Peru is a country with a massive mining potential,” Belaunde said. “Taking care of the social conflict problem and improving the efficiency of how mining income is spent I think will solve the bulk of the issues.”

Fujimori’s government would also support oil exploration projects in the Amazon to leverage the Talara refinery in the country’s north, Belaunde said. Indigenous communities oppose such initiatives on concerns of environmental harm.

“The government should promote putting its oil potential to work,” as long as there’s community support and the environment is protected, he said.

Peru forced sterilisations case: ‘They could get away with it’

Victims of mass forced sterilisations in the 1990s fear upcoming Peru presidential runoff results could close door to justice.

Simeon Tegel

19 May 2021

Maria Elena Carbajal still vividly recalls the doctor’s chilling response when, from her hospital bed, she asked repeatedly to see her newborn son, Francisco. “Once you have the procedure, you can see him,” the mother of four said the doctor told her, before asking: “You’re thinking of having more kids, like guinea pigs?”

It was September 18, 1996, at Maria Auxiliadora Hospital in the Peruvian capital, Lima – and Carbajal, then 26, had given birth around 4am. Within three hours, she had been sterilised.

Now a quarter of a century later, she is one of thousands of Peruvian women hoping to finally receive justice for one of the most notorious cases of mass forced sterilisations in history.

The tubal ligations, irreversible surgeries that prevent women from having children, occurred under the guise of a family planning and population control programme during the 1990-2000 government of Peru’s then-strongman President Alberto Fujimori, who is now serving a 25-year jail sentence for ordering two massacres of suspected subversives.

After decades of legal roadblocks, a judge finally heard details of the case against Fujimori and three of his former health ministers earlier this year. The judge is due to decide soon whether the case can finally go to trial.

If Fujimori is eventually found guilty, the sterilisations would constitute a crime against humanity as defined by the International Criminal Court. Yet the case is at serious risk of collapsing before it even begins.

Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, 45, is running for president and has promised to pardon her father if elected. It is widely assumed in Peru that she would also seek to shut down new prosecutions of her father, including for the sterilisations case.

Alberto Fujimori remains revered by some Peruvians for ending a hyperinflation crisis and presiding over the crushing of the Shining Path, a group that Peru had declared a “terrorist organisation”. But Transparency International accused Fujimori of stealing $600m from public coffers. He has consistently denied the allegation and the many others made against him by prosecutors and human rights groups.

His daughter has acknowledged the former president made “errors” but has insisted that corruption “attacked” his presidency. During the weekend, Keiko Fujimori also dismissed the “so-called forced sterilisations”, saying, “That was a family-planning plan. These are investigations that have been going on for 20 years and which have been shelved on four occasions.”
‘Risk to rule of law’

Meanwhile, she has been quickly making up ground on the presidential frontrunner, leftist candidate Pedro Castillo, in advance of the June 6 presidential runoff, and some commentators now regard her as the favourite.

Keiko Fujimori, whose Popular Force party is widely blamed for destabilising Peru since she narrowly lost a 2016 election, also faces a trial of her own; She has been accused of laundering $17m and prosecutors are seeking a 31-year sentence. Keiko Fujimori has denied the money laundering allegations.

But if she were to become president, her trial would be postponed until she steps down in 2026 – unless she were to emulate her father’s control of the judiciary in the 1990s. According to the International Commission of Jurists, by the end of Alberto Fujimori’s decade in power, the executive ended up manipulating the courts, even using them to attack opponents.

Antonio Maldonado, the prosecutor who oversaw Alberto Fujimori’s extradition from Chile, said her victory would pose “a serious risk to the rule of law and democratic order” in the country.

“It would be the triumph of impunity,” Maldonado told Al Jazeera. “It would be a grave wound to Peru’s international image. Little by little, Peru could end up like Venezuela or Nicaragua, facing serious reproach from the international community.”

Thousands sterilised

Alberto Fujimori unveiled the birth control programme in 1995. In its early days, it was funded by a $36m donation from the United States and a smaller amount from the United Nations.

But allegations soon emerged of medical personnel bullying and tricking women, often Indigenous and with limited education, into undergoing sterilisations. So, too, did claims of doctors – under pressure to meet unrealistic quotas – cutting corners, failing to use sufficient anaesthetic, and ejecting patients in severe pain from clinics almost as soon as the procedures were completed.

Keiko Fujimori, whose team did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment, was first lady during the latter part of the programme after she replaced her mother, Susanna Higuchi, who had a bitter separation from the former president.

According to Peru’s health ministry, 272,028 women were sterilised, although it remains unclear how many of those procedures were carried out against the wishes of the patients. Human rights groups believe the number likely runs into the tens of thousands.

Amid a storm of national and international criticism, the programme was eventually ended in 2000. To this day, the Fujimoristas insist that any abuses were the isolated acts of rogue doctors rather than state policy.

Upcoming vote

Despite a deep dislike of the Fujimori dynasty’s alleged crimes, many Peruvians equally fear Keiko Fujimori’s surprise opponent in the presidential runoff next month.

Castillo, a firebrand teachers’ union leader, ran on an explicitly Marxist platform and has argued that Venezuela is a democracy. The 51-year-old also has pledged to free Antauro Humala, a radical army officer who led a 2005 military insurrection against the elected government of then-President Alejandro Toledo.

There are also concerns that Castillo might attempt to interfere in the justice system on behalf of the leader of his Free Peru party, Vladimir Cerrón, a Cuban-trained doctor and former regional governor who is serving a suspended sentence for corruption and also faces nearly a dozen more graft cases. Maldonado, the prosecutor, regards him as also being a threat to Peru’s fragile institutions.

Castillo and Keiko Fujimori made it to the runoff with record-low support in the first round of voting – at 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively – with Peruvians ground down by five years of political scandals, as well as the world’s worst per capita COVID-19 death rate.

“People are hurting and need to be able to get on with rebuilding their lives. What they are most afraid of is more chaos,” said Norma Correa, an anthropologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. “This is a campaign that is only going to get more emotional, reopening old wounds and triggering more fears as we get closer to the election.”

For Carbajal, now 51, those fears all centre around the possibility of the Fujimori family returning to power.

She still suffers from health problems linked to her unwanted sterilisation, which she said messed with her hormones, leading to arthritis and forcing her to retire from her job as a geriatric assistant. Carbajal said she is now unable to even lift her two-year-old grandchild.

“It’s like a bucket of cold water in the face,” said Carbajal, about the looming possibility that the next government will shield the former president from justice. “After all these years, we were finally getting close to justice. They treated us like animals, like cattle, and now they could be about to get away with it forever.”

COVID-19 catastrophe overshadows Peru election

Bill Van Auken

27 April 2021

With Peru heading toward a second-round election pitting former teachers strike leader Pedro Castillo against Keiko Fujimori, leader of the Peruvian right and daughter of a jailed former autocrat, the country is reeling under the impact of the latest deadly surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New and more contagious variants of the coronavirus have fueled a record rise in both infections and fatalities. In addition to the P.1 variant from Brazil, a newly identified C.37 variant is spreading rapidly in both Peru and Chile. The average daily death toll has risen to 378, with one Peruvian dying every four minutes. Peru trails only Brazil in terms of Latin American per-capita death rates.

The surge has brought the health care system to a state of collapse. Many hospitals are reportedly operating at 150 percent capacity, with patients filling cafeterias, hallways, waiting rooms and tent facilities set up in parking lots. Last week it was reported that there were only 64 open intensive care (ICU) beds across the country. The national Health Ministry (MINSA) reported that 2,524 Peruvians were on mechanical ventilators, a 63 percent increase over the height of the pandemic’s first surge last year.

Along with mass death and illness, the pandemic has also sharply accelerated Peru’s descent into economic crisis. Previously touted for the fastest economic growth in Latin America, last year Peru saw its economy plummet by more than 11 percent. Unemployment and poverty have dramatically increased, with the loss of 2.2 million jobs and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 1.8 million Peruvians falling below the poverty line, a growth in poverty that the IMF described as “without precedent.” Fully 27.5 percent of the population is now classified as poor.

The working class has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, with the government classifying mining and other profit-making enterprises as “essential.” The devastating effect of the virus in crowded mining camps has led to a wave of protests and strikes, including an indefinite strike by miners at the Shougang Hierro Perú mine, where 24 workers have died of COVID-19.

This social and economic catastrophe wrought by the profits-over-lives policy of the Peruvian government has intersected with a protracted crisis of bourgeois rule in Peru, which has had four presidents in little more than four years. Every living ex-president—and one, Alan Garcia, who committed suicide rather than going to jail—has been implicated in a vast web of corruption, most of it involving bribes and kickbacks from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and its local contractors.

Popular anger against the ruling establishment erupted last November after Congress—more than half of whose members are facing similar charges—impeached then-President Martín Vizcarra on the basis of unproven corruption allegations in what many saw as a right-wing coup. The move provoked the largest protests seen in Peru in decades, with tens of thousands of Peruvians, most of them students and youth, taking to the streets of Lima and other major cities. While the mass protests forced out the regime installed by the congressional coup, a new government was consolidated under Francisco Sagasti, a former World Bank official.

This was the context in which national elections were held on April 11, with all of the traditional parties of the national bourgeoisie dissolved or discredited, and polls showing barely 10 percent support for any of the 18 presidential candidates participating.

The surprise first-place winner, with 18.92 percent of the vote, was Pedro Castillo, candidate of the Perú Libre party, who now faces Keiko Fujimori of the right-wing Fuerza Popular (13.4 percent) in a second round to be held in six weeks. The latest poll shows Castillo with a nearly two-to-one lead—41.5 to 21.5 percent—over Fujimori in the run-up to June’s second round.

The election’s first round saw a relatively high abstention rate—roughly 30 percent—in a country where voting is mandatory by law. In addition, the vote that put Castillo in first place trailed the number of ballots that were spoiled or cast blank in opposition to the entire political setup.

This has not stopped elements of the pseudo-left internationally from immediately hailing Castillo as the latest incarnation of the “Pink Tide” in Latin America. The Pabloite International Marxist Tendency, for example, declared that “it is obvious that wide layers of workers and peasants have expressed and will express their rejection of the established order and their search for solutions that favour the interests of the majority through Castillo’s candidacy.” It added that “Revolutionary Marxists are duty-bound to accompany the masses in this experience.”

Similarly, Jacobin magazine, associated with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the US, declared that “The odds were stacked against Evo Morales but he managed to change Bolivia for the better. In Peru the same is also possible,” offering electoral support for Castillo by insisting that the “first task” is “defeating Keiko Fujimori.”

Castillo first gained national prominence as the leader of a 50-day teachers strike in 2017. He subsequently joined Perú Libre, a party led by the ex-governor of the central highlands department of Junín, Vladimir Cerrón. Perú Libre combines pseudo-socialist rhetoric with provincial corruption and extreme right-wing social policies, including virulent nationalism and anti-immigrant xenophobia, as well as the denunciation of “gender ideology,” same-sex marriage and abortion.

It is noteworthy that the words coronavirus and COVID-19 do not appear in Perú Libre’s platform. To the extent that Castillo has dealt at all with the pandemic in his campaign, it has been to compete with his right-wing opponent Fujimori in demagogic denunciations of lockdowns.

Fujimori has made it clear that she will run a far-right campaign against socialism, while appealing directly to the armed forces and the police for support.

No sooner had Castillo’s victory in the first round triggered a fall on the Peruvian financial markets and in the value of the sol against the dollar, than the supposed “leftist” candidate began executing a sharp shift to the right.

Castillo declared that his government would “give juridical security to our businessmen,” while repudiating sections of his party’s program that call for nationalization of mining and other “strategic sectors” of the economy. “I completely reject those who say Pedro Castillo is going to nationalize,” he said on April 22 in an interview with Radio Existosa.

He will doubtless make this same case in a debut appearance at a virtual gathering of Perumin, the annual meeting of Peru’s mining executives this week.

In the same radio interview, Castillo delivered a gratuitous insult to Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, who is demonized by the right wing in Peru as throughout Latin America. “I want to openly say to Mr. Maduro that, please, if there is something you have to say concerning Peru, that first you should solve your internal problems, that you should come and take back your compatriots who have come here to commit crimes.”

Maduro had issued no statement on Castillo’s victory or any other aspect of Peruvian politics. The vilification of Venezuelan immigrants, roughly 1 million of whom are in Peru, was of a piece with Castilllo’s viciously anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign, which has included a promise that once he is elected, he will give all of the foreigners who “have come to commit crimes” 72 hours to get out of the country.

Castillo’s evolution is entirely predictable, following a well-worn path. In 2011, the ex-army officer Ollanta Humala was elected as the candidate of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) after campaigning as an opponent of “neo-liberalism” and a sympathizer of the “Bolivarian Socialism” of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Like Castillo, he ran against Keiko Fujimori in the second round.

Within a year of taking office, he was being hailed by Wall Street for presiding over the most profitable “emerging market” in Latin America. At the same time, Humala exposed the real class character of his government by imposing martial law and killing scores of protesters demonstrating against environmental damage inflicted by giant mining multinationals in the region of Cajamarca and the province of Espinar in Cuzco.

Humala was put in a position to carry out these crimes and to establish his right-wing, anti-working class government thanks to the complicity of virtually all the significant forces of Peru’s pseudo-left, the major unions, the Stalinists and the so-called defense fronts in the provinces.

These same forces are now rallying behind Castillo. Already the CGTP, Peru’s main union federation, has issued a radical-sounding endorsement of Castillo, as has the Nuevo Perú party of pseudo-left standard bearer Verónika Mendoza, which claimed his election would create “the possibility of a profound change.”

Such pseudo-left organizations, whose politics reflect the interests of more privileged layers of the middle class, are attracted to elements like Humala and Castillo precisely because they represent not an independent movement of the working class from below, but rather bourgeois movements, whose policies are directed at suppressing the class struggle and subordinating the working class to the interests of Peruvian and international capital.

These political tendencies, which promoted similar illusions in Brazil’s Workers Party, Chavismo in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia, bear responsibility for politically disarming the Latin American working class in the face of the attacks by the so-called “left” governments as well as the serious threats of dictatorship posed from the right.

The bitter lessons of this entire experience are summed up in the burning necessity of forging the political independence of the working class in opposition to these bourgeois parties and governments and their pseudo-left supporters. Revolutionary parties must be built in Peru and throughout Latin America as sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International to unite the working class in the struggle for workers power and socialism.


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