Written by Antonio Peña Jumpa (*)
From that June 5, 2009, in which one of the saddest and most violent episodes in the contemporary history of Peru took place, through El Baguazo, 12 years have passed and it is as if neither politics nor our social-cultural-economic attitude has changed. Social conflicts, the pandemic of 2020, and the electoral process of this year 2021 (in the middle of the bicentennial of Peru’s independence), confirm how sad and violent our history remains after El Baguazo.
On June 5, 2009, Amazonian communities in the province of Bagua, in the Amazon Region, were violently evicted after a long protest that began at the end of February of the same year. The causes of the protests were political and economic abuses by the central government, whose officials (including the President of the Republic) had endeavored to comply with the conditions to enter into Free Trade Agreements that supposedly would benefit the entire country. Deaths and destruction followed these events, as did a racist advertising campaign that divided the country. Despite this pain, to date, not a public official, politician or businessman, perpetrators or favored by the abuses, has been prosecuted and even less punished.
This situation of catastrophe and impunity has been experienced and continues to be experienced in the hundreds of socio-environmental or socio-cultural conflicts resulting from mining, oil, logging, hydroelectric or other similar concessions that have peasant communities and the Amazonian communities of Peru as protagonists. The main cause of these conflicts is found in the attitude of the current rulers: hierarchical, centralized, legally formal, and bureaucratic decisions that do not take into account the opinion and less the participation of the Andean or Amazonian communities. In the extreme, these communities have not been summoned for an objective and equitable prior consultation as provided by international law and the Political Constitution. The central governments, with the disposition of the interested companies, have acted abusively, without respecting the native population.
A similar experience is the one we lived during the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020. The central government still does not understand the multicultural country, persisting in controlling the pandemic from Lima, centrally. Throughout 2020 we have witnessed a lot of improvisation, extemporaneous measures, apparent actions of control, anticipation, and reconstruction, but with catastrophic effects on health services and other public services such as education. It is painful to know of the death of hundreds of doctors and health personnel in public services due to lack of a protection system, and the death of thousands of people due to lack of care in a health center, specifically due to lack of medical oxygen. The population of the Amazonian and Andean communities have the worst public health services. There is no, or there is only an improvised small health center without doctors or health personnel, and without medicines, and even less is there intercultural knowledge to deal with these communities.
In the same sense, the electoral process recently experienced in Peru shows us how sad and violent it means to defend political and economic ideas different from those that dominate the central government and the market for goods and services. The electoral process has divided the country, as happened after El Baguazo. A group of people believes that they are right about the political and economic plans of the country, and they have forced publicity ideas and attitudes in the present electoral process, discriminating against the other group. This group has felt with the right to exclude, mistreat, and belittle the other group. It does not open the debate or convince; impose their ideas. The economic power groups and the media seem to act in coordination defending those plans. On the other side, we find the group of people who do not believe in their state or in the current governments, like the Amazonian and Andean communities, and although they do not understand liberalism or neoliberalism, or communism or socialism, they have hope of a change and an improvement.
What to do?
Given the dimension of the problems, it is difficult to propose solutions. But we believe that it is possible to discuss and suggest some alternatives.
- It is essential that the events of El Baguazo continue to be investigated, and that public officials, politicians and businessmen who had direct or indirect participation in the decisions and events that occurred be punished.
- Whichever government is in power, it must understand and address socio-environmental or socio-cultural conflicts, respecting the Amazonian and Andean communities, following international standards and the content of the Political Constitution.
- It is urgent to act in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic in a decentralized way, rebuilding public health services in the most remote places with priority. In the same sense, attend to other public services such as education.
- Foster electoral tolerance. Whatever government is elected, it is necessary to understand the social, economic, and cultural needs of the population that believes neither in the State nor in its leaders.
El Baguazo reminds us of the reality of Peru each year that passes. Overcoming the causes of this episode leads us to think of lost years of coexistence. But still, despite the past 12 years, the hopes of a new country are not lost in the population.
Lima, June 5, 2021.
(*) Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Lawyer, Magister in Social Sciences and PhD. in Laws.
Image obtained from https://bit.ly/2NEVQQF