Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Peru: Corrupt leader assaults protester

Saturday, October 23, 2010
By David T. Rowlands, from Green Left Weekly

Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who last year ordered the brutal massacre of protesting Amazonian tribespeople, has once again resorted to violence — this time in person.

Visiting Edgardo Rebagliati Hospital in Lima, on October 9, Garcia encountered 27-year-old Ricardo Galvez, who shouted “corrupt” at the president. Eyewitnesses say Garcia flew into an uncontrollable rage and forcefully struck the volunteer worker in the face.

Members of Garcia’s entourage landed follow up blows, knocking a defenceless Galvez to the floor where he was subjected to further mistreatment.

A dazed and bleeding Galvez was dragged away and detained by security personnel. However, the spontaneous intervention of fellow hospital workers and patients expressing their solidarity with Galvez secured his release.

This is not the first time Garcia has publicly assaulted a citizen. In 2004, Garcia kicked a protestor out of the way, later denying the incident occurred until footage surfaced.

Garcia admits to verbally attacking Galvez but denies striking him. In fact, within hours of the incident, the Garcia camp had concocted a farcical story about a patriotic hospital cleaner who had spontaneously punched Galvez to defend the honour of the nation’s head of state.

The “cleaner” in question came forward and made a full confession. But it has since been proven by Peruvian journalist Rosa Maria Palacios that this so-called cleaner is in fact a professional bodyguard and a long-serving member of Garcia’s security team.

These revelations have seriously embarrassed hospital authorities who collaborated with Garcia’s failed cover up. Garcia himself appears beyond embarrassment.

After all, this is the man who embezzled a fortune’s worth of public money and fled to France in disgrace after his first presidential term in the 80s, only to return to win the 2006 elections on the Popular American Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) ticket.

Officially a party of the workers, APRA — like the Australian Labor Party — has long since sold out to the big end of town, embracing pro-corporate policies.

Garcia’s previously unthinkable comeback was facilitated by generous campaign funding from US government sources, which financed a relentless propaganda campaign against his main opponent, left-leaning Ollanta Humala of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP).

Galvez’s courageous stand appears to have been prompted by the latest scandal involving Garcia: vote rigging. It has been alleged that widespread electoral fraud has perverted the course of Lima’s October 3 mayoral elections.

Desperate to contain the rise of the new centre-left party Fuerza Social (FS), Garcia’s APRA machine reportedly intervened through the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPU) to illegally disallow more than 8000 votes cast for FS candidate Susanna Villaran.

Polls were predicting a strong win for FS, which would have been the first left-of-centre victory in a race for mayor since 1986. Garcia’s manipulation worked in favour of the conservative establishment candidate Lourdes Flores, prompting protests by FS supporters.

In a highly suspicious development, the ONPU has released figures indicating a dramatic narrowing of Villaran’s previously comfortable lead.

At the time of writing, the result still hangs in the balance. Should Flores be declared the winner, few are in any doubt that it would represent one of the most brazen examples of electoral fraud in Peruvian history.

The support for FS is a sign of growing popular disenchantment with the neoliberal “free trade” policies pursued by successive US-backed right wing administrations. The ruling elite and its foreign backers are determined to stem the tide.

In a disturbing sign of rising repression and censorship, maverick journalist and writer Jaime Baily’s high-rating television show El Francotirador (“The Sniper”) has been abruptly axed by channel Frequencia Latina for denouncing the vote rigging scandal and for planning to interview Galvez.

Baily has won a popular following in Peru for daring to speak out against corrupt practices. Now it appears that he has gone too far for Frequencia Latina’s owner and director Baruch Ivcher, a member of the Peruvian oligarchy and a close associate of Garcia’s.

So much for freedom of speech in “democratic” and “investment-friendly” Peru, a country recently praised by US President Barack Obama as a model for the rest of the continent.

If Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or any other leader of the Latin American left were to conduct themselves this way, the international corporate media would immediately launch into a chorus of condemnation.

Along with the Colombian regime of war criminal Juan Santos, Garcia’s Peru is Washington’s strongest ally in the South American continent. This helps to explain why he can apparently get away with anything.

Garcia’s sordid accommodation to foreign capital has had a corrosive effect on Peruvian society, further undermining an already jaded faith in public institutions.
Public pressure forced Garcia to sack his entire cabinet in October 2008. Secret recordings had emerged of several senior government members discussing the bribes they would receive from a Norwegian oil company in return for Amazonian extraction rights.

Grassroots activist network Second Class Citizens, one of several dissident groups becoming increasingly active in Peru, said: “Our country is going through one of the gravest moral crises in its history.

“The poverty and exclusion of millions of Peruvians is being extended by institutionalised corruption and the capture of the state by private interests.

“This system based on the fire sale of the country’s assets, the destruction of our natural resources and the criminalisation of protest is fertile ground for the advancement of corruption…let’s reclaim our Peru.”

Ricardo Galvez’s act of defiance sums up the feelings of millions of Peruvians towards the rotten-to-the-core president who is a puppet dictator in all but name.

No one in Peru is seriously debating the substance of Galvez’s allegation because it is common knowledge in every quarter of the country that Alan Garcia is as corrupt as they come.

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