The election of Ollanta Humala as president of Peru expresses a widespread rejection of neoliberalism.
The second round of the South American state’s presidential elections took place against a background of bitter conflict.
There are over 200 physical confrontations continuing between communities and the state. More than half are battles to defend areas granted to multinational mining companies by the current government.
For eight years president Alan Garcia presided over a bonanza for foreign capital and deepening impoverishment for the population. The profit rate for mining companies has nudged 40 percent—in the US it is 14 percent.
Meanwhile the minimum wage is frozen at the 1994 level of £100 a month. But it costs more than £300 a month to get the basic goods needed to live on.
The election offered a poor choice. On the one hand stood Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori. She stood in the tradition of the president who presided over the most corrupt and savagely repressive regime in Peru’s history.
On the other was Ollanta Humala, a military man who until recently presented himself as an ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and committed to social policies that would benefit the majority of the population.
The voters who elected Humala want redistribution of wealth, recognition of indigenous rights and an end to corruption.
But Humala has already declared himself a “friend of the market”. There is an air about him of Lucio Gutierrez, the officer elected in Ecuador to represent the protest movement. He turned against it, and was thrown out of office.
The defeat of Fujimori was critical. Humala enjoys the support of the mass movement, but he cannot be relied on to bring the change people want.
That will only come with struggle from below. That is the lesson of the last decade.