Peru – the bastion of fascism in the region

By Laura Arroyo Gárate* – SER.PE News

In the last few hours, the Lugar de la Memoria (Place of Memory) has been arbitrarily closed down, demonstrating the advances in the chain of censorship of this regime. A chain that did not begin this Tuesday with the closure of the LUM, but months ago with the – very little media coverage – raids on the premises of the Confederación de Campesinos del Perú (Confederation of Peasants of Peru) or that of the Nuevo Perú party, to name but two. Almost at the same time, the Boluarte regime has taken another step forward in the regional isolation to which it is leading Peru by withdrawing, this time, the Peruvian ambassador from Colombia for “foreign interference” committed by Gustavo Petro, while the legislative arm of the regime has banned the entry of members of the International Solidarity and Human Rights Mission, which includes Argentine deputies, once again for “interference”. In the same last few hours, representatives of Nazism in Spain (VOX), of the Mexican conservative ultra-right and of the Bolivian ultra-conservative coup with the daughter of Jeanine Añez, Carolina Ribera Añez, as the main spokesperson, whom, by the way, we can read in an extensive and concessive interview in the legitimising newspaper of these groups, Perú21, disembarked in Lima. In this case, “foreign interference” was greeted with a “Viva VOX!” enunciated by the Mayor of Lima, Rafael López Aliaga. None of these events is an isolated episode occurring at the same time. On the contrary, we are faced with a network of interconnected events that respond to the same political objective.

The arrival of the extreme right in Peru is neither arbitrary nor minor. And not only because it is scandalous that a political party like VOX has the possibility to spread its racist, intolerant, hateful and fake news messages, but also because they do not visit the Peruvian capital for free. The Madrid Forum is nothing more than the staging of the reactionary international – that alliance between extreme right-wing political forces think tanks and organisations of ideological dispute, media directors specialised in the propagation of false information, extremist religious organisations, international opinion leaders such as Mario Vargas Llosa, etc. – in order to show muscle in the international ideological dispute in which we find ourselves. VOX is particularly interested in Peru, and not because it likes our landscapes or our gastronomy. After the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and with the inauguration of Dina Boluarte as President of a dictatorship co-governed by all Peruvian powers, Peru has become the bastion of the international extreme right in our region.

This label is as accurate as it is alarming, foretelling the winds that are blowing in our country, whose dictatorship has as its international backers the greatest exponents of the regression of rights that should be democratic consensus, of racial and gender discrimination, of authoritarianism as a form of government and, of course, of the justification of assassinations under all these precepts. As we can see, the political project of VOX and that of Boluarte and his coalition government is the same. End of the democratic consensus with a coup d’état of the powers that lost in 2021, the racist discrimination evidenced in the type of subject that is killed by the unjustified repression directed especially at peasants, Quechua and Aymara, the authoritarianism exercised from the Government Palace, but also the Congress of the Republic, the judicial system useful to the dictatorship, the silent media power, the economic power as a guarantor, etc…, and those more than 60 Peruvian men and women who are no longer with us and who, for this government, its allies and for part of the illustration elite, do not justify removing it, closing the Congress, calling it a dictatorship or describing the regime as fascist.

A few days ago, in a talk on the extreme right in Peru, I commented that it is not a universe of political parties with radical projects. The extreme right is, in reality, a worldview that includes political parties, but above all, it deploys its power thanks to the other powers – above all the media – that open the doors to its messages under the cover of a misunderstood “freedom of expression” and thus naturalising these discourses on the public agenda. For this reason, it is important to delineate precisely the type of government we (over)live under in Peru, pointing out the dictatorial and fascist nature of the Boluarte regime, even though there are those who consider both to be exaggerations, since there are “still” spaces for debate and dissent, alternative media or vestiges of precarious institutionality. The reality, unfortunately, confirms the diagnosis. The closure of the LUM is just one more step in a chain of actions that began before 7 December. In the case of Boluarte’s dictatorship, moreover, with more than 60 people killed by repression and its effects, and with the alliances she built to set herself up as president, the ultra-right character of her mandate was a truism waiting to be confirmed sooner rather than later. And we have been in this scenario where fascism is in the government palace for some time now.

There are those who think that the dispute against the extreme right can take place in the realm of the known. On the stage of politics as debate, of dialogue as a form or of respect as the norm. I am afraid there is bad news. Politics, to begin with, has always been an arena of dispute and not of conciliation, yet the consensuses reached at the international level – whether we like them more or less – have come to an end precisely because of the action and policy deployed by the extreme right. The great democratic consensus at the international level – a rather improvable consensus, but a consensus nonetheless – has been shown to have completely broken down. Donald Trump was central to this. And that is why the extreme right is now the main threat to democracies worldwide. Democracies that they use to come to power and overthrow them or, as in the Peruvian case, democracies whose foundations they twist for the same purpose. Thus, they seek to establish regimes that curtail rights, curtail freedoms, criminalise any dissident and, ultimately, silence them forever through the use of force. From arbitrarily arresting a social leader to outlawing a collective, a party, a speech or an opinion, is this not happening in Peru?

But the extreme right is not really a different or new version of the positions of power in countries. On the contrary, they are the last resort of elites when they lose power or even a little power. We saw it in Brazil, we see it in Spain and we live it in Peru. Nothing is left of the right-wing with which one could disagree ideologically, but agree on red lines within the democratic consensus. And this is not only happening with the emergence of fascist parties such as Renovación Popular, the addition to this reactionary worldview by Fujimorism (which was never democratic, not even when its leader went to Harvard to lie with the backing of certain naive political scientists), or the emboldening of fascist movements such as La Pestilencia, Los Insurgentes, etc. We also see this in the internal rupture of parties with a certain democratic trajectory, such as Acción Popular, whose most important media figure today, Maricarmen Alva, is at the closing of the Madrid Forum embracing the fascism of which she is a sister. And, above all, we see this in the orchestra of the complicity of all the Peruvian powers that understand that murder is valid if it preserves what is really at stake: the model. The extreme right has historically been capitalist and, today, neo-liberal. They have no transformative character. On the contrary, their essence is conservative and, therefore, they seek to preserve the model through which inequality is the norm, precariousness is customary, “every man for himself” is doctrine and the elites are in charge. Hence their dispute with what they call “communism”, a void label in which they include anyone who speaks of the presence of the state, of guaranteeing rights or extending them, of demanding that everyone’s vote be respected equally, and that, ultimately, democracy be expanded. It is also because of his affinity with the model he has always defended that we can see Mario Vargas Llosa devolve from denouncing the Fujimori dictatorship to embracing Abascal (VOX) and Boluarte. It is the model that they defend. It is privileged that are at stake. If democracy works against them, they renounce democracy for survival. It is clear that extreme right-wingers today have a lot of class consciousness.

It is true that the arbitrary closure of the LUM is a convenient closure because it was carried out hours before the Amnesty International report was presented. A report that gives an account of the human rights violations systematically perpetrated by the Boluarte regime. But this is neither the only nor the main reason. In fact, the publicity the report received was a consolation prize after this arbitrary censorship, but not a victory. It is not a building that is closed, but what it represents: the physical encounter with history and, therefore, the exercise of memory from a process in the present and not in the past. The extreme right knows very well that the ideological dispute has to take place precisely in the scenarios of the construction of common meanings based on our own narratives of the past and the present. That is why they base their discursive dissemination on biased propaganda and, above all, on the corruption of the truth (fake news). The narrative is powerful. Discourse builds and destroys. Words determine not only what we say about ourselves, but who we are. That they dispute the meanings of “freedom”, “progress” or “democracy” is nothing more than evidence of this strategy that cannot be debated, but only fought against. We should take note of the lessons. As Martín Soto points out in a tweet thread, during the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski we saw how the extreme right put pressure on the then Minister of Culture, Salvador del Solar, to censor an exhibition at the LUM. At the time, there were those who thought it best to conciliate and concede. To avoid confrontation, they backed down. From that dust, mud was thrown up. The head of the director of the LUM, Guillermo Nugent, was handed over, and today we see how a step backward in a memory means opening the door to the fascists. That is why we cannot allow the truth to be debated. Facts cannot be debated. Fascism and its discourse can only be shut out.

The reactionary international never arrives quietly, all that has happened in the last few hours – despite the fact that only the closing of the LUM has gained a certain media prominence – are the echoes of its drums beating loud and clear on our shores, and with the applause, selfies and excited statements of local fascism represented by Muñante, Chirinos, Tudela, Cueto, Alva and the whole long list we already know. But there is one word that fights fascism better than any other: DEMOCRACY. That word that Peruvians have been claiming every day for more than a hundred days in the streets despite the media’s terruqueo, the police repression, the murder made invisible by the powers that be, the lies of the government, the insensitivity of the Congress and the complicity of the economic power. Bertolt Brecht said that “when the truth is too weak to defend itself, it must go on the attack” and in Peru, the best way of reading the political moment, the adversary in power and defending truth, memory, justice and, therefore, democracy is that mobilised Peru which is already the best anti-fascist front. But not everyone is in this powerful and admirable space yet. There are still those who doubt, those who are frightened, those who are equidistant, and those who talk more today about the closure of the LUM than they did three months ago about the 60 dead. It will always be good news if this changes. It is taking time, but it is not too late. The defence of democracy has been on the streets of the country since 7 December. It is high time that no one is missing in this defence.

(*) Political communicator. Director of the podcast “La batalla de las palabras”.

Photo: La Noticia.

Redacción Perú