Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980) wrote that Latin America is the land of infinite impossibilities. The electoral cycle in which the victory of Pedro Castillo in Peru is inscribed can be classified, in a vulgar record, as a wave of the left. More appropriate, however, is to call it a new ride through the often trodden paths of a relentless labyrinth.
“Democratic winds are blowing in the Americas,” said Carlos Lupi, PDT chairman, referring to the triumphs of Biden and Castillo as if there was a viable parallel. The Peruvian, whose party defines itself a little ridiculously as Marxist, wants to close the Constitutional Court and, through a Constituent Assembly, install a state “intervening, planner, innovator, entrepreneur and protector”. But that’s the skin: in the regime he dreams of, social life would bow to conservative religious dogmas. The democracy?
“We see him with great joy, with positive airs for our Latin America. He is a worker, with progressive positions,” said Gleisi Hoffmann, president of the PT. Castillo represents a peasant reaction to urban Peru. However, it would be a mistake to interpret such a reaction in the binary terms of the clash between “backwardness” and “modernity”. The figure who will rule Peru embodies the modernization of backwardness promoted by a sticky mix of neo-Pentecostalism and fundamentalist Catholicism. Progressive?
“Our Latin America” is a recent invention, founded by imperial French pan-Latinism in the second half of the 19th century, and revised several times. In Peru, the most dense of these refoundations emerged: the idea of Indo-America, expressed in an anti-imperialist version, by Haya de la Torre, or Marxist, by José Carlos Mariátegui.
A century ago, the two political leaders sought, in different ways, to connect with cosmopolitan ideological currents. Today, much later, the primitive sentences which emanate from Castillo testify to the sterilization of the Latin American thought of the left.
Castillo led a “round campesina”, that is to say, a rural militia. His speech reproduces, in fragmentary fashion, the manifestos of Shining Path, the self-proclaimed Maoist guerrilla group whose violent incidents paved the way for the rise of Fujimorism. The electoral reiteration of polarity heralds a cycle of violence. How many times will history have to be repeated?
The Peruvian election brings two phenomena to note, with more general implications. The first is the reception of Castillo’s victory over the Brazilian left. The enthusiasm of Hoffmann and Lupi does not indicate an adherence of the PT or the PDT to the social conservatism of the new Peruvian president, but an implacable abdication of elementary democratic principles. They have learned nothing from the Chavez disaster in Venezuela.
“Each country, its reality; each people, its government. I therefore want to defend the self-determination of each people.” Alice Portugal, member of the PC do B, does not even express the peripheral repairs carried out by Lupi or Hoffmann in the face of Castillo’s extreme positions. The “self-determination of each people” is the typical justification for tyrannies, which also serves China and Saudi Arabia, Castro and Pinochet.
Bolsonaro could use it, with equal convenience, to justify the military dictatorship in Brazil.
Castillo got less than 19% of the vote in the first round, against 13% for Keiko Fujimori. He won by exclusion: because of the just revulsion that the name Fujimori causes in the country. The second notable phenomenon is the political powerlessness of the Peruvian democratic currents, unable to dialogue with two-thirds of the voters who voted neither for the heir of Fujimorism nor for the aspiring village dictator. It is perhaps this mysterious, ethnic or cultural essence that characterizes Latin America: our labyrinth.
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