After weeks of futile election cancellation maneuvers by the right-wing radical and corrupt opposition led by presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, the left-wing primary school teacher and election winner Pedro Castillo Terrones was sworn in as Peru’s new president on July 28. But barely a month in office, the new head of state’s cabinet has been shaken for weeks by a crisis of legitimacy that is being concocted at the same time by the right – wing radical scene on the streets as well as by left – wing, supposed allies-such as Vladimir Cerrón, head of Castillo’s Peru Libre (Free Peru) party.
The third obstacle, however, is the necessary vote of confidence by Parliament. At around 9 am on the morning of August 26, the thoughtful President accompanied his full cabinet of 19 ministers, led by Guido Bellido, to the exit of the presidential Palace and wished him clear head and good luck for his first trial by fire: the approval of the Congress (a unicameral parliament) of the Republic. According to the Constitution, the Cabinet must request a vote of confidence before the end of the first 30 days after its swearing-in. However, if a majority of Congress votes for a vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Guido Bellido and all 19 ministers would be forced to resign. Castillo’s party has just 37 of the 130 parliamentary mandates, the confirmation of confidence requires 66 votes, which the loose governing coalition of Castillo could prevail with a total of 79 votes, but even after more than 12 hours of consultation, the parliament had to postpone the uncertain vote until August 27.
Test of strength in their own ranks and the “Terruqueo” on the streets
As nerve-wracking as the nomination of the 19 government ministers dragged on for weeks, Castillo suddenly had to withdraw the appointment of some ministers under massive pressure within his own cabinet and in public. For example, the appointment of the 85-year-old writer, sociologist, visual artist and professor at two prestigious universities in Lima, Dr. Héctor Béjar Rivera, welcomed in large parts of Latin America. In the 1960s, Béjar founded the guerrilla movement of the National Liberation Army (ELN) together with Javier Heraud. Although the Peruvian right was reluctant to forgive him for this, he also described the violent organization Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”), which appeared years later, as terrorist.
But Béjar’s most recent “offense” was a statement from the end of November 2020, when the new government did not even exist. In it, he included the armed forces, especially the Navy, in the terrorism accusation. Namely, with the reference to state terrorist practices such as torture and shooting of oppositionists by the uniformed before and during the Fujimori regime, confirmed by leaked CIA reports. However, the de facto correct attribution of blame met with cross-camp outrage from the Navy to more moderate cabinet members Castillo. Béjar had to take his hat off before he had even taken it off in his office, and was replaced by the more conservative lawyer and career diplomat Óscar Maúrtua.
Castillo’s own party, however, made it difficult for the newly elected president to govern. The elementary school teacher from deep Peru made a career as a trade union leader, but had never been a member of a political party until the establishment of his candidacy at the beginning of 2021. This membership was offered to him by the Peru Libre (Free Peru) movement, which was founded in 2016 and defines itself as “socialist, Marxist-Leninist, anti-American and anti-imperialist” and has mutated into a party. A membership offer that, according to the calculation of its chairman, the neurosurgeon Vladimir Cerrón, grants him the right to submit proposals to Castillo as minister, to force him to nominate his proposals and to criticize the political composition of the Cabinet-in particular the surrender of several ministries to the left – social Democratic coalition party Juntos por el Peru (Together for Peru).
However, Cerrón, who gave birth to the radical left, is a dazzling figure to whom several corruption lawsuits are attached and who is vehemently rejected by 85 percent of Peruvians as the back or front man of the Castillo government. The newly appointed Prime Minister Guido Bellido and the president himself are also similarly reluctant, being confronted with the accusation that he has not devoted a single line in his election campaign or government programme to the identitarian concerns of women and homosexuals. Bellido, on the other hand, with the accusation against his multiple misogynistic and homophobic failures.
As the stress generated in his own ranks is not enough, Castillo sees himself challenged even after taking office by the marches of right-wing radical to fascist groups that have continued since the beginning of the year. Hate speech, threats of electoral cancellation and military coup, parades with fascist symbols and glorification of the viceroys of the Spanish colonial era. The far-right spook is raging not only in Washington’s Capitol and in Bolsonaro’s Brazil, but recently also in Lima, Peru. The far-right scene has shot into Castillo with the outrageous insinuations that the Peru Libre Party is “communist” or “terrorist”. The wave of defamation in Peru has long been known as “Terruqueo”, which means “incitement to terrorism”.
But the repertoire of imbecility makes use of a wide range of conspiracy twine and paranoid assertions of “citizens' desires”, which are reawakened worldwide, but apparently cooked up and controlled by hard neoliberal think tanks. Among them the “protection of the Western family from homosexuality”, the “danger” of “cultural Marxism”, as well as the “alienation by emigrants”; a repertoire that is suspected by observers as a right-wing radical escalation “by appointment of Donald Trump & Jair Bolsonaro”.
However, a full month after taking office, more than half of Peru, which Castillo gave her vote, sounds like it is now time to explain the only vaguely outlined government program in more detail and to implement it in action. One scenario mentioned is Peruvian mining; for some, Peru’s brilliant performance, for others, its spoilage.
The international mining, the human wear and the destruction of the Andean massif
That the people affected by mining or employed by it have been fighting for clear and acceptable environmental and safety measures for years and that the new president is recognized as a spokesman for these concerns is illustrated by a note from the recent presidential elections: 88 percent of voters in mining districts such as Cotabambas, Espinar y Chumbivilcas voted for Pedro Castillo. These governorates are the site of huge and conflict-ridden copper mines, mostly of transnational origin, such as Las Bambas, owned by China’s MMG Ltd, Antapaccay owned by the Anglo-Swiss group Glencore, or Constancia, controlled by Canada’s Hudbay Minerals. In one sentence: The 10 largest mining companies in Peru either have a domestic minority stake or all have their headquarters abroad.
According to the latest surveys, Castillo received strong approval not only in areas where large mines are operating, but also where new mines are being excavated. For example, 86.3 percent of the vote in the southern district of Torata, where Anglo American and Japan’s Mitsubishi are developing the $ 5.3 billion Quellaveco copper mine, which is scheduled to start production from 2022. In the Haquira area, home to a $ 1.8 billion project by Canada’s First Quantum, 96 percent of residents chose Castillo over Fujimori.
The mining sector accounts for nearly 60 percent of Peru’s total exports and is said to be crucial – as the corporations see it – for Peru, “which wants to recover from the world’s deadliest COVID-19 epidemic per capita, which has brought down the economy and increased poverty.” Mining companies waited for the election result in the hope that a split and fragmented vote in parliament, in which no party holds a majority, will help “mitigate drastic reforms.” The corporations felt unfairly treated by the new president, who had accused them of “plundering Peru’s mineral resources,” and fear his announcement that the state should withhold up to 70 percent of mining profits to invest them in health and education programs, especially in mineral - rich areas with high poverty rates.
The international hunt for raw materials in the mountain range of the Andes and its Amazon foothills also operates an almost illegal mining sector with catastrophic effects on the environment and human dignity, which I already described in 2015 with the title “Gold Rush in South America: Exploitation of Man and Nature”. The ruthless, slave-like exploitation of dying gold diggers at an icy 6,000 meters altitude is found in the repression of the police and military against protests and uprisings by the copper mine workers, of whom at least 45 people have been killed by manslaughter or hail of bullets since 2004, according to official data; all of them 17 years later by the judiciary unpunished killings.
The government puts the interests of companies above those of the population and even creates extra laws for this. For example, much too lax environmental regulations. Limits for pollutants in air, water and soil, which do not make it difficult for mining companies, but even more so for the people who have to live in this environment, reported the Deutschlandfunk in a feature from 2015. An angry and combative father reports: “The children here in the village are clearly below normal in size and weight, many look like 7 or 8 years old, but are almost twice as old. This is due to the fact that most families here do not have their own water pipes and have to drink the water contaminated (by mining) from the river.“Horror stories like these are rampant along the more than 5,000 kilometres of mountain ranges of the Andes plundered by mining, from Chile to Bolivia and Peru to Ecuador.
In June 2014, the then federal government signed a “strategic raw materials agreement” with Peru. One year later, the German-Peruvian Chamber of Industry and Commerce founded the “Competence Center Mining and Raw Materials of the AHK Peru” (funded by the BMWi), which coordinates the implementation of the Raw Materials Agreement. It serves as a platform for a future commitment of the German supplier industry at all stages of raw material extraction and processing. For the German raw material processing companies, it opens up opportunities for the diversification of their raw material sources, it said in an official statement.
From the outset, German aid agencies and environmental associations have voiced sharp criticism of this “partnership”. The signing of the raw materials agreement comes at a bad time, explained the Catholic relief agency Misereor at the time. The Peruvian government has adopted a legislative package that further softens the already weak regulation of the raw materials sector. By signing the agreement, the federal government is sending a signal to the Peruvian government that an expansion of the raw materials sector takes precedence over urgently needed legal rules. Misereor also accused the federal government of lacking transparency: the agreement was negotiated without the involvement of the Peruvian Congress or Peruvian civil society. During the duration of the agreement, it is therefore necessary to carry out a “transparent monitoring of the human rights consequences and to link the promotion of German economic activities to the binding observance of human rights”.
The development and environmental organization Germanwatch did not spare sharp criticism of the raw materials partnership. “Despite announcements to the contrary, we must expect German commodity security to be enforced here at the expense of human rights and the environment,” it said. Survival International was concerned about the rights of the indigenous population in Peru. For the extraction of valuable minerals, land would be taken away from the indigenous people, security forces brutally took action against activists.
Raw materials from Peru play an important role for the German economy. Almost 25 percent of German copper concentrate imports come from the Andean country, and Germany also sources lead, tin, silver and other minerals from Peru. Seven years later, it would therefore be time to critically review the human rights and environmental self - imposed obligations of the agreement and renegotiate them with the government of Pedro Castillo.