Mirage Of Latin Nationalism

Peru Under Pedro

Sandeep Banerjee

As the news of pedro Castillo’s victory in Peru’s Presidential Election poured in, a section of the international left hailed the victory occasionally using words like Marxism, resource-socialism, nationalisation, in their writings.

After 31 anxious days of delay (after the result was known to the world) the Election office notified Pedro Castillo’s victory. The anti-imperialist people of Latin America are eager to see whether Peru, the seat of US backed Group of Lima and old ally of the USA will turn against US imperialism. But it looks strange that someone from the international ‘left’ camp praises Pedro and/or his party as socialist anti-imperialist in the true sense. For example, an article shared by a widely respected left/socialist magazine [Iqbal, 2021] reported that Castillo in his first 100 days of presidency will, among several activities, close US military bases, though the other anti-imperialist postures Iqbal talked about like leaving Group of Lima, and expelling the NGO US-Aid are of course true. But, about closure of military bases, the Perú Libre actually said ‘no more military bases’ (No más bases militares) and to emphasise the point, party’s national secretary Arturo William, while launching this poster through his tweet on March 17, 2021, wrote some sentences in addition to the poster image in his tweet [Willian, 2021]. Anyway, these are rather tiny mistakes.

Peter Koenig in his much-shared article [Koenig, 2021] says that Pedro’s political advisor Veronika Mendoza is a socialist and the economic advisor she brought, Pedro Francke, is aligned to centre-left line! “Ideals and Proposal” of Nuevo Perú, the party formed by Veronika Mendoza, can easily be found in written form in the internet and Pedro Francke has his own website where he expresses his ideas through articles, moreover he has published quite a number of articles in many journals and other publications. Veronika Mendoza and her party can, at best, be described as a parliamentary Green, whose party says ‘recognizing the country as megadiverse does not signify negating mining’ and would try to make a ‘management model’ to make things ‘sustainable’ [Programa del Movimiento, 2017]. Moreover, the program of Juntos por el Perú never talked of anything socialist. A Counter Punch article commented that the Perú Libre “calls for nationalization of extractive industries, a new constitution, and respect for women’s rights, including reproductive rights” without mentioning anywhere that Pedro Castillo personally is a Catholic by faith and rejects abortion right and LGBTQA rights, for example [Whitney 2021].

Two recent articles of Vijay Prashad dealt with Peru: (i) one that was printed in CPI(M) mouthpiece People’s Democracy and also appeared in many left journals: “Zig Zag Politics in Latin America”, published on April 18, 2021, before the second round of presidential election [Prasad 2021a]; (ii) “President Pedro Castillo of Peru and The Attempt to Undermine Him”, by José Carlos Llerena Robles & Vijay Prashad which was also printed in People’s Democracy on June 20, 2021 [Prasad, 2021b]. Few observations expressed in these two articles were: “If Castillo is able to take the presidency by some miraculous feat of unity by the social movements, then Peru will see the kind of changes that have only been seen thus far in Bolivia and Venezuela … both closely linked to the long-term revolutionary project of the Cuban Revolution.” [Prasad 2021a] “Pedro Castillo belongs to Perú Libre … Perú Libre’s political orientation …is firmly Marxist and … anti-imperialist. Castillo spoke in the language of popular nationalism, … nation’s resources for the nation’s peoples. ... there is a straight line that links Pedro Castillo with Evo Morales, … who drove … agenda of resource socialism.” [Prasad 2021b]

But, how far natural resources are nationalised in Bolivia?

Evo Morales became president for the first time in the year 2006, a constituent assembly was formed, and after that in 2009 he resigned and sought vote again. In 2014 he was elected again as president. 2018 was the last full year of his presidency. If we look at the percentage of mining value produced by the private corporate mining, we find the lowest figure to be 40.14 and at the end of Morales era, private sector amounted to more than 50% of the total. The state sector petered out. One can see that corporate mining is substantial also in so-called ‘strategic sectors’ like Lithium. Is this ‘Resource socialism’?

What the Perú Libre actually thinks about ‘nationalisation’. In their programme (Ideario y programa, 2020) they started discussing ‘nationalisation’ under the section ‘Popular Economy with Market’. They explained – the parameters (of Popular Economy with Market) have been taken from the experience of governments of the Plurinational Republic of Bolivia and the Republic of Ecuador, of the Morales and Correa governments. One can easily find the meaning of Perú Libre’s nationalisation from examples of Ecuador under Correa and Bolivia under Morales. This article already presented Bolivia’s extent of Nationalisation in the field of extraction excepting fossil fuels.

In a recent article the economic team head Pedro Francke writes that
* There will be changes and continuity, both, in economic policy.
* Uplifting the vast poverty-stricken people will mean a big reorientation in economic policy, but that does not mean nationalisation, expropriation of the rich.
* Castillo said ‘no more poor in this rich country’ but never said ‘no more rich in this poor country’.
* Market is of great importance.
* For good functioning of market inflation must be controlled, and there will be dollar stability.
* Central bank will function independently.
* Fiscal sustainability is a must, though, it is imperative to shift from low-tax low-public-spending regime to higher level. [Francke, 2021]

So, a picture emerges regarding future nationalisation under Perú Libre government. If that is called ‘socialism’ one has to redefine socialism as capitalism with a modest welfare state.

Table: I

Value of products of minerals by private mining, cooperative mining and state (nationalised) mining in some different time periods, $.

Year State Private Cooperative Private % of total
2006 8,346,769 624,852,412 517,406,391 54.31
2009 137,285,309 1,412,255,484 648,528,282 64.25
2014 314,999,464 1,616,954,753 2,095,895,675 40.14
2018 284,840,930 2,141,762,363 1,748,828,214 51.29

Table: II

Quantity (kg) and Value ($) of Lithium carbonate produced by private mining, cooperative mining and state (nationalised) mining in a recent year.

Year     State       Private    
    Kg   $   Kg   $  
2018   20,000   380,000   10,000   181,140  

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Vol. 54, No. 21, Nov 21 - 27, 2021