“Great transformation” in Peru

Ollanta Humala, a left-wing former army commander, has won Peru’s presidential election. He defeated right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori by a narrow margin. Humala’s success is reflective of the wave of left-wing governments that are being elected left, right and centre in Latin America. From Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Venezuela, the rise of leftist politicians is quite apparent. The sorry history of ethnic cleansing and destruction of ancient cultures by the colonialists haunts Latin America. Oppression is nothing new to them but when armed struggle did not meet with much success due to the neo-colonialist policies of the US post-World War II, many leftists decided to engage with parliamentary democracy in a bid to challenge the class system. Inspired by Cuba, most countries in Latin America are aware of the repercussions of adopting a capitalist or neo-capitalist model. Even if these countries can no longer turn towards communism in its entirety, the huge gap between the haves and have-nots has led left-leaning people to look to the ballot in order to improve the social structure prevalent in their countries.

Humala promised “economic growth with social inclusion” and to “build a more just Peru for everybody”. In one of the world’s fastest growing economies, Humala’s promises found resonance because like all other free markets, the misery at the bottom and the luxury at the top is staring everyone in the face. Many investors are worried that Humala’s victory will be detrimental to the Peruvian economy but in an interview with the BBC, Humala clarified what he stood for. “What we need to do is solve the problems of inequality, illiteracy and malnutrition in Latin America,” said Mr Humala. He might have to give some concessions to capitalist structures but at least he would be able to give something back to the poor of Peru.

Revolutions have retreated since the end of the Cold War and left-wing forces have adopted other means to get social justice. The new phenomenon is emerging through the ballot box. Economic growth at the cost of injustice and oppression is not what the world needs. What it needs is a new system where the poor do not get poorer and the rich do not get richer. What it needs is social equality and economic justice. More power to the rejuvenated left in Latin America.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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