Opinion: Will Humala’s first cabinet fulfill Peru’s expectations?


By Patricia del Río for Perú21
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Opinion: Will Humala's first cabinet fullfill Peru's expectations?
Humala seems to follow Lula’s path in appointing his cabinet member. "Will it manage to keep the equation between economic growth with a major social inclusion?" asks Del Río. (Cartoon: Carlín)

This week president elect Ollanta Humala announced the names of his first cabinet members. The first reactions have been positive because, in general terms, it seems that Humala has succeeded in gathering a team that will gain consensus: Luis Miguel Castilla as Finance Minister, Kurt Burneo as Minister of Production, and José Luis Silva Martinotti as Minister of Exports and Tourism, are people that transmit stability to those that demanded a responsible management of the economy. On the other side, Aída García Naranjo as minister of Women’s Affairs, and Rafael Roncagliolo as Foreign Minister satisfy the expectations of those who wanted left-wing people in the government that will assure an inclusive administration.

For those that voted for Humala, but with the expectation that Perú Posible – Toledo’s political party – was going to guarantee economic and democratic continuity, some of the ex-president’s men are also in the cabinet, such as Daniel Mora as Minister of Defense, and Alberto Borea [1]. The Prime Minister position has been reserved for the president’s right-hand man so far: the entrepreneur Salomón Lerner Ghittis. The right-hand is quite clear that it will be Nadine.
We have a really mixed group that gathers people from different ideologies and with distinct technical and political profiles. It all points that the rest of cabinet members will be appointed under the same logic [2]. The question, however, is: Will it be a cabinet that fulfills people’s expectations? Will it manage to keep that difficult equation of keeping economic growth with a major social inclusion? That is Humala’s biggest challenge and his administration will have a hard time to deal with it.
If there is something clear about Alan García’s administration is the enormous inequality generated by the development model used during his government. This has also created groups of Peruvians living totally different realities and even extremely opposite. According to a study made by Viceversa Consulting firm, from the ten poorest regions in Peru, seven concentrate all the mining production in the country. Five of these, additionally, have the highest rates of social conflicts. This is not about ignorant villagers confronting soulless investors, but of a permanent tension between groups with absolutely opposite interests.

Have we thought about why an aymara farmer should care if a mining company pays windfall taxes to the State if he has kept being poor all these years? Why should an inhabitant from the most remote village in Cusco be interested in the gas production of Camisea, or if more tourists visit Machu Picchu, if his life remains as miserable as it was when there was crisis and terrorism?

Those of us who have benefited from it have learned the lesson: Without economic growth there is no development. But the damage made by this unequal and disproportionate growth, brought about by the State’s incapacity to distribute resources and the frivolousness of the present and former government administrations, that were pleased with the audience’s applause, without caring for the wellbeing of the people, is making us turn into a society without common goals and objectives. We have become a group of citizens that – due to the lack of political parties and representative institutions – is unable to think in what kind of society we want to build for the future and for our children.

The farmer that blocks the highway, the entrepreneur that manages to get a law passed in Congress that only benefits his business, the mining companies that want to convince us – through a commercial aired in the middle of a soccer game – why they shouldn’t pay more taxes: All of them are protecting their square meter of power, defending their own place. No Peruvian today is thinking about what kind of country we should live in, but instead what kind of life they want to have.

The challenge of Humala’s new administration is huge because he is promising to satisfy everybody. Even when that is not an impossible task, let us be reminded that when demands and expectations go through private and particular interests, consensus cannot be reached as simply as by having a mixed group and exotic cabinet. Good luck!

Editor’s Notes: [1] At the end, Humala did not appoint Borea as Justice Minister as the press speculated. [2] This op-ed column was written before Humala completed the appointment of all his cabinet.

Patricia del Río hosts a program in Radio Programas del Perú and writes a weekly political column in Perú21. Read her profile of Jaime Bayly in
15 Peruvians of 2010.